Edward Snowden Fallout: Tech Giants Begin Revealing Government's Secret Data Requests
Edward Snowden Fallout: Tech Giants Begin Revealing Government's Secret Data RequestsReuters

Tech giants Apple, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Facebook have begun disclosing details about Washington's secret data requests, following the latest White House approval, in an attempt to further distance themselves from government surveillance activities.

The web firms have been lobbying for making the government requests public in order to dispel the mystery surrounding the alleged discreet ties in the wake of the revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The Obama administration had earlier reached an agreement with the tech majors, allowing the firms to disclose judiciary-backed government requests to obtain or monitor user information pertaining to security-related issues.

Washington has agreed to relax rules under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) which prohibits companies from revealing court orders, and has allowed the tech firms to publish the specifics with certain restrictions.

"We have not received the type of bulk data requests that are commonly discussed publicly regarding telephone records. This is a point we've publicly been making in a generalised way since last summer, and it's good finally to have the ability to share concrete data," said Microsoft's Executive Vice President and General Counsel Brad Smith, in his blog.

From January to June 2013, the Obama administration, with the backing of nearly 1,000 Fisa orders, had asked the company to provide information on between 15,000 to 15,999 users, Smith said.

Smith insisted: "It is important to remember that receipt of an order does not mean the information that was sought was ultimately disclosed. Microsoft has successfully challenged requests in court, and we will continue to contest orders that we believe lack legal validity."

Similarly, other tech majors have come up with the figures of such data requests.

Apple had earlier said it received 927 government requests seeking user information during the first six months of 2013 while Google said officials reached out for between 9,000 and 9,999 user accounts.

From Yahoo user accounts, the government requested information on 30,000 to 30,999 accounts and Facebook faced requests to divulge details of 5,000 to 5,999 user accounts.