Action in U.S. spying saga: Apple, Facebook disclosures; Snowden speaks; scope of surveillance

Today we’re serving up quick links to developments in the U.S. government surveillance saga:

• Apple, Facebook and Microsoft — which were reported to be part of the National Security Agency’s Prism surveillance program — have released the number of government requests they received for user data. As the Merc’s Brandon Bailey notes, though, all those requests are lumped together. They can be for investigations for robberies or missing children; the companies did not break out requests from the intelligence agencies such as the NSA.

Google, which releases a Transparency Report twice a year, already details the number of government requests it receives. It has called on the United States to llow companies to make the distinction between intelligence-agency requests and others. ” “Our request to the government is clear: to be able to publish aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures, separately,” Google reportedly said in a statement Friday.

As for the direct access to the Internet companies’ user information that the government supposedly enjoys — which the companies have denied — whistleblower Edward Snowden said during a live chat hosted by the Guardian today that “more detail is coming.” Also, as the Merc’s Jeremy Owens notes, Snowden said the tech companies’ nearly identical denials were “misleading,” and that although they are legally required to comply with the government, it does not mean their compliance is ethical.

• What’s the scope of the surveillance? Depends on who’s answering the question. Government officials are saying that the NSA doesn’t collect location data even though it can, according to the Wall Street Journal. CNet reported over the weekend that “thousands of analysts can listen to domestic phone calls” without court authorization; the Office of the Director of National Intelligence denied the report.

And here’s what Snowden had to say about that: “The reality is that due to the FISA Amendments Act and its section 702 authorities, Americans’ communications are collected and viewed on a daily basis on the certification of an analyst rather than a warrant.”

Photo of Edward Snowden from the Guardian via AP


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