Some critics fear that the shadow revenue flowing to the private sector could create a perverse incentive for tech companies.
"The line you have to watch for . . . is the difference between reimbursement for complying with a lawful order and actually a profit-making enterprise," Michelle Richards, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union's told The Hill.
Google and Microsoft have asked the government for permission to disclose the aggregate numbers behind the NSA's secret surveillance requests. However, since the companies filed those suits, the Justice Department has asked for (and received) an extension of the deadline six times. It's unclear whether the government can simply continue deferring indefinitely.
Update: In a statement to the Post, Facebook denied receiving payments from the government. "Facebook has never received any compensation in connection with responding to a government data request," a spokesperson said.
Correction: The original version of this post said that Facebook was among the companies that received payment for cooperating with surveillance requests. It was not among them.