Twitter CEO says company wants to disclose more specifics about data requests

Twitter’s chief executive, Dick Costolo, said Wednesday the company wants to disclose more specific information about data requests from federal intelligence officials, supporting efforts by Google to lift the shroud of secrecy around those demands.

But Costolo declined to respond to several questions about whether the company participates in the National Security Agency Internet surveillance program known as PRISM.

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Since The Washington Post and the Guardian first reported on an NSA PowerPoint presentation that described PRISM, Twitter has gained a reputation as a company that has resisted government intrusion.

That’s because the company was one of the few prominent tech firms not listed in the slides. The slides identified virtually all other Silicon Valley giants — Google, Facebook, Apple, Yahoo — as well as Microsoft as participants in PRISM, which officials have said helped the government catch terrorists by monitoring Internet activity.

Those tech firms have since denied knowledge of PRISM and said they have not given the government direct access to their servers.

While deflecting questions on PRISM, Costolo said the company generally pushes back on “broad requests” from the government to make sure they are legally valid.

“We are not petulant about our response. We have a principled stance, and we try not to cross that line,” he said during a keynote luncheon at the American Society of News Editors’ annual meeting.

In efforts to assuage privacy concerns, Google has asked the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to ease gag orders regarding data requests the court makes, arguing that the company has a constitutional right to speak about information it is forced to provide.

Twitter generally supports greater disclosure on government requests, Costolo said.

“We’d like to see more transparency from other companies in our field and . . . in reaction to specific comments about Google, generally speaking, yes, we would call for more transparency from both sides,” he said.

The firm plans to release a transparency report in July that will include all the requests that governments around the world make of the company. But the report is not expected to be specific about the U.S. government’s secret national security requests.

Facebook and Apple for the first time released their own reports earlier this month, but they grouped together demands from local police investigations and those from the NSA, as well as other government requests. That made it impossible to know the scale of what the companies hand over to the NSA.

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