The United States Department of Justice has reached a tentative deal with Apple and other technology companies allowing the firms to provide more detailed disclosures on information requests from the NSA Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
As indicated in the Justice Department’s filing with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the administration is acting to allow more detailed disclosures about the number of national security orders and requests issued to communications providers, and the number of customer accounts targeted under those orders and requests including the underlying legal authorities. Through these new reporting methods, communications providers will be permitted to disclose more information than ever before to their customers.
The relaxations come after an effort by Apple and other tech firms to achieve greater NSA transparency. Apple joined other companies in July in requesting that the government allow them to offer regular reports on security related requests. Apple CEO Tim Cook and several other tech executives met with President Obama in December to discuss NSA surveillance methods.
Companies will be allowed to give out general figures on how often they receive demands for data from National Security Letters or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court. They are allowed to report each individual category in ranges of 1,000. For example, if a company receives 2,500 requests, their reports will reflect a range of between 2,000 and 3,000 requests.
As an alternative, companies can report specific number ranges in increments of 250, but if they do, they must lump National Security Letters and FISA requests together.
Companies can also report general numbers for how many customer accounts have been affects by the requests, with National Security Letter requests from the FBI allowed to be reported in real time, but a six-month delay will be required in the reporting of FISA court requests.
In the wake of today’s agreement, Apple posted an update (PDF format) with new information on Account Information requests received by the company. Apple received a total of 927 account requests in the United States and disclosed data for 747 accounts between 01/01/2013 and 06/30/2013. Apple reported objecting to 102 requests, and say they disclosed no data in 254 requests.
Apple also reported that it received between 0 and 249 National Security Orders.