Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook have come together along with several other major technology firms and civil liberty groups to demand a deeper level of transparency surrounding U.S. National Security Agency surveillance activity.

In a letter published yesterday, the more than 63 technology companies, trade groups and non-profit organizations called upon the U.S government to allow internet, telephone and other communications based service providers to disseminate requests they receive for user data in greater detail. More specifically the group is requesting permission to regularly share details regarding:

  • The number of government requests for information about their users
  • The number of individuals, accounts, or devices for which information was requested
  • The number of requests that sought communications content, basic subscriber information, and/or other information.

The group also calls upon the U.S government to share a similar data set, while pointing out that the NSA requests should be published much in the same way various law enforcement information has been for some time.

"Basic information about how the government uses its various law enforcement-related investigative authorities has been published for years without any apparent disruption to criminal investigations," the letter reads. "We seek permission for the same information to be made available regarding the government's national security-related authorities. This information about how and how often the government is using these legal authorities is important to the American people, who are entitled to have an informed public debate about the appropriateness of those authorities and their use."

The letter comes on the heels of the National Security Agency's secret "PRISM" program and the Snowden documents which led to speculation on Microsoft's involvement with NSA communications surveillance. Apple and Google have both also gone public with their stance on the issue, Google has even begun ramping up encryption across some of its services to reportedly prevent NSA attempts at accessing the data.

The letter was published yesterday by the Center for Democracy and Technology. Signatories include AOL, Apple, Digg, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Mozilla, Reddit, Twitter and Yahoo, among many others. You can read the full letter here (PDF).

Image via Salon