But that doesn't mean that every government request for data will become public knowledge.
Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google will tell their users more about government requests for their data, in the wake of a series of leaks exposing the NSA's secret bulk data collection programs. As the Washington Post reports, companies that have already adopted a practice of notifying users of government requests "have found that investigators often drop data demands to avoid having suspects learn of inquiries."
Here's more from the Post:
Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google all are updating their policies to expand routine notification of users about government data seizures, unless specifically gagged by a judge or other legal authority, officials at all four companies said. Yahoo announced similar changes in July.
But that doesn't mean that every government request for data will become public knowledge. Orders making their way through the FISA Courts — which grants the authority for the NSA's data queries — are automatically secret. And as the Postnotes, so are the FBI-issued national security letters. In the end, all four companies confirming the changes to the Post say they'll end up disclosing information on requests with more frequency, and will have clearer policies on when those requests are withheld from the public, and why.
Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr responded to the Post's story with a statement, claiming that the move will endanger their investigations:
"These risks of endangering life, risking destruction of evidence, or allowing suspects to flee or intimidate witnesses are not merely hypothetical, but unfortunately routine.”
If you want to know which other tech companies already disclose data requests to their users, you can check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation's "Who Has Your Back?" resource.