Big Tech Firms Reach Info Sharing Deal With Government

A handful of the world’s largest technology companies have reached an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department that will allow the companies to more fully disclose the information they share with the government under national security requirements.

The companies -- Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD), Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Apple (NASDAD:AAPL), came under fire last year when it was revealed that they shared information with the government culled from social media sites operated by and devices sold by the companies.

The embarrassing revelations came to light as part of policy leaks by former security contractor Edward Snowden.

In the wake of those revelations, the tech companies sued the DOJ and the two sides have been litigation for months over the tech companies desire to disclose more about the information they are compelled to give to federal law enforcement agencies, specifically the National Security Agency.

Fox News reported that the agreement announced Monday came about after a recent meeting at the White House prior to President Obama’s speech about the NSA. DOJ officials, White House officials and intelligence officials were present at the meeting.

A Government official tells Fox News that President Obama had a line in the speech the next day that was specifically written because of the meeting the night before at the White House. President Obama said something to the effect of “the government seeks to work out a resolution to tech companies wanting to give additional information about these inquiries to their customers.”

According to a government official, then the next week on Thursday and Friday January 23 and 24 Deputy AG James Cole held conference calls with the General Counsels of the tech companies. Half of them came to an agreement during the first call, the second half were on board after last Friday’s call.

All tech companies and content providers can start using these rules, not just the 6 big companies who were involved in litigation with the federal government.

As soon as the release is made and this becomes official these tech companies are allowed to start disclosing information on everything except for information that falls under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Ace, which will requires a six month lag. Thus, if the information in question happened today, the companies could not release it until 6 months from today.

In addition there will be a delay of two years for data relating to the first order that is served on a company platform, product or service (whether developed or acquired) for which the company has not previously received such an order. In other words if Google comes up with a new platform the NSA wants to look at they have two years to do so before the companies can report on it.