Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft have formed an alliance which will publish a letter today demanding increased transparency from the National Security Agency (NSA) and its surveillance efforts.

NSA
The NSA must be more transparent about data requests, tech companies demand. (Credit: Reuters)

The broad alliance includes the four US tech giants along with 59 other companies, investors, non-profit and trade organisations, and will call upon President Obama and congressional leaders to allow internet, telephone and web-based service providers to report national security-related requests for user data with more detail.

According to All Things D, which has seen the letter, it will ask that the companies are allowed to regularly report:

    • 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

Transparency Report

The group also asks the US government to begin issuing its own transparency report, providing the same information.

It is argued that information relating to other criminal investigations has been made public for years without any negative impact, and the letter goes on to request that the same information relating to crimes investigated by the NSA should also be published.

"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."

Loudest call

Although Microsoft, Google and others have already requested permission to disclose national security-related data requests, this alliance is the loudest call yet from technology companies and service providers who want to let their customers know when such requests are made by the NSA.

The letter continues: "Just as the United States has long been an innovator when it comes to the internet and products and services that rely upon the internet, so too should it be an innovator when it comes to creating mechanisms to ensure that government is transparent, accountable, and respectful of civil liberties and human rights."

Other signatories of the letter include AOL, Digg, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Twitter, Yahoo and YouTube.