Two years ago, Congress passed the USA Freedom Act. The USA Freedom Act allowed for companies to make small disclosures about national security letters they receive. Also, to stop the use of indefinite gag orders. As a result, the Department of Justice has to review disclosure restrictions in national security letters.
Tech companies have slowly become more transparent after they received national security letters from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. These letters often come with gag orders that force companies to release user data to the federal government confidentially.
Twitter’s National Security Letters
On Friday, Twitter opened up about two national security requests. These requests were accompanied by gag orders, preventing the social network from notifying the account holders or publicly disclosing the national security letters. Recently, the FBI lifted the gag orders allowing for the social network to disclose the national security letters publicly.
“We have provided each of the account holders with copies of the relevant NSLs (certain information redacted to protect privacy) as well as the account data we were compelled to produce,” Twitter’s Associate General Counsel, Elizabeth Banker, explained in a statement. “While the actual NSLs request a significant amount of data, Twitter provides a very limited set of data in response to NSLs consistent with federal law and interpretive guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice.”
Twitter is”encouraged” by the lifting of these two gag orders after seeing other companies such as Google and Yahoo! disclose their national security letters to the public. But, the social network explains that they are unsatisfied with the restrictions. Twitter plans on pursuing their lawsuit against the U.S. government to speak more publicly about national security letters.
Last December, Facebook revealed that government requests increased by nearly 30% in 2016. The social network explained that the number of government requests for account information rose by 27% in 2016. In fact, Facebook tells the government requests for user data increased from under 50,000 in the first six months of 2015 to nearly 60,000 in the first half of 2016.