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Justice Department says tech companies would help terrorists by sharing national security orders

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Major tech companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and many others have been pressuring the White House and Congress for more transparency around government requests to collect user data, but today the US Justice Department indicated its not willing to pull back its shroud of secrecy just yet. According to papers filed with the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) , the Justice Department says that it opposes requests from technology companies to reveal more information to the public about user data requests because it believes it would hurt national security.

The DOJ thinks security trumps transparency

The rationale for keeping these requests secret boils down to the government having the authority to continue doing so, as well as the belief that the companies requesting these disclosures don't really know how much potential damage increased transparency would do. A section of the FISA response notes that "if our adversaries know which platforms the Government does not surveil, they can communicate over those platforms when, for example, planning a terrorist attack or the theft of state secrets." There's also a common "slippery slope" argument — if FISA begins granting these requests for a few companies, they might be obligated to do so for all the other companies that make such transparency requests.

Despite the Justice Department's predictable stance against increased transparency, this doesn't appear to be an issue that either the technology industry or civil liberties groups are going to let go of anytime soon. A number of new bills asking for increased transparency surrounding government data requests are making their way through the Senate and the House — though they face a tough road, given the president's stance of placing security over transparency. Still, with the vast number of powerful supporters in the tech industry as well as the legislature, bills asking for a clearer look into the government's requests should continue to come up. But with the government shut down, don't expect things to change too quickly.