Apple, Facebook and Google set to expand transparency on government data requests

By on May 3, 2014, 9:15 AM
google, apple, microsoft, facebook, transparency, government data request

Google, Apple and other big tech companies have been waiting for the US government to give them full permission to publish data requests since last year, and now reports suggest the companies are tired of waiting. The Washington Post reports that Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple are all about to update their reporting policies regardless of US government approval.

The companies are planning to expand their transparency policies in terms of the way they report government user data requests, by notifying customers when they’ve received a government query on them. They will all offer up information on government data seizures unless that specific data is in some way tied to criminal activities and have received specific gag orders from a legal authority.

Google has been most vocal about reporting government requests with the company publishing regular Transparency Reports detailing the number of government requests it has received since 2009. However, the company didn’t start reporting specific numbers of government requests for data related to users or accounts until its January-June 2011 Transparency Report.

The Justice Department, as you would imagine, is not thrilled about the decision saying "these risks of endangering life, risking destruction of evidence, or allowing suspects to flee or intimidate witnesses are not merely hypothetical, but unfortunately routine,” department spokesman Peter Carr said, citing a case in which early disclosure put a cooperative witness at risk.

Google has already updated its policy as of this week, saying it will begin reporting government requests in the manner described above unless they cause "imminent risk" to a potential victim. Reports suggest that the other big 3 are yet to finalize their amended transparency reporting policies.

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