Tech Companies Hopeful for Change in NSA Disclosure Policy

President Barack Obama spoke about the National Security Agency last week at the Department of Justice in Washington. The President touched on allowing technology companies to disclose information to the public about the kinds of data the government requests from them. However, he did not address issues such as secret government taps on data centers located overseas and encryption standards, two issues of particular interest to technology and phone companies.

The disclosure of National Security Agency surveillance was an embarrassment to many tech and phone companies last year, but according to The Wall Street Journal, few criticized the President for his lack of mentioning key issues.

A joint statement by a handful of companies — including Google, Microsoft and Facebook — said that while “crucial details remain to be addressed on these issues,” the companies would “continue to work with the Administration and Congress to keep the momentum going.” AT&T said in its own statement that the debate on government surveillance programs and finding a balance between safety and privacy “is a healthy one.”

“[T]he president took a step toward acknowledging one of the industry’s biggest concerns when he pledged to permit tech companies to release to the public more information about government data requests,” WSJ reports.

The government requests for user data usually do not require approval from a judge and involve gag orders, which prevent companies from disclosing that they’ve received them. “Mr. Obama’s intelligence overhaul panel recommended limiting that gag order to 180 days unless a judge approves an extension,” the article says.