Apple, Google and other tech giants demand spying openness

NSA boss General Keith Alexander
Image caption NSA boss Gen Keith Alexander said sharing more data about requests must not harm investigations

Apple, Google and dozens of other technology companies have urged US authorities to let them divulge more details about security requests.

The companies want to be able to report regular statistics about the nature and scope of what data is being asked for.

Whistle-blower Edward Snowden's revelations about US spying capabilities has left the tech firms keen to assert their independence.

Authorities are said to be considering the companies' request.

"We just want to make sure we do it right," said Gen Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency.

"We don't impact anything ongoing with the FBI. I think that's the reasonable approach."

Limited scope

The companies sent a letter outlining their request on Thursday to Gen Alexander, as well as President Obama and Congress.

It was co-signed by some of the most influential companies in the tech world, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Campaign groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Human Rights Watch are also backing the action.

Companies are currently allowed to release limited data regarding security requests and their nature.

But as it stands those disclosures must be limited in scope, and in many cases require that the firms ask the courts for permission to make the information public.

Many users of popular services, particularly social networks, reacted angrily to the news that companies regularly make available information about users when requested to do so.

"They don't have a choice. Court order, they have to do this," Mr Alexander from the NSA said, suggesting that security authorities could be open to the idea.

"What they want is the rest of the world to know that we're not reading all of that email, so they want to give out the numbers.

"I think there's some logic in doing that."

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