Up until now, several major tech companies, including Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, were involved with lawsuits against the federal government over transparency when it comes to the government sending requests for information. Those lawsuits were dismissed today, after those companies won a spectacularly meaningless concession that means little to nothing for just about anyone.
The government has deigned to allow those companies to release reports stating how many national security requests they receive from the government, and, well, that’s about it. The contents of those requests will, for pretty obvious reasons, be very much sealed, reducing this concession to a novelty statistic. If you’re concerned about the underlying problem of government spying, this doesn’t signal any sort of meaningful change, nor does it suggest that more concessions are on the horizon. The key issue, it seems to me, is being spied on without a warrant and without being informed of the causes for being spied on – as long as the government continues its domestic spying programs (it surely will), those issues will continue unabated. Of course, knowing that you’re being spied on and knowing why truly would sabotage any legitimate national security efforts on the part of the government – it’s a pretty unassailable wall for the NSA to hide behind.
In the meantime, you can look at yearly totals, and find out how many times the government asked your favorite tech companies for private information. Who knows, maybe you’ll need to know it if you ever get on Jeopardy.