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The tech giants lashed out when news broke that their customers’ data was being tapped, escalating pressure on Obama to curb the NSA programs. And on Jan. 27, the government announced it will allow five companies - Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc., Facebook Inc. and LinkedIn Corp. - to share more information with the public about how often they receive orders to assist national security investigations.

Meanwhile, telecom companies remained largely on the sidelines. An opinion from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which was declassified in September, said no telecom company that has received an order to turn over bulk phone records has challenged the directive.

By contrast, at least one tech company asked the court to make public its orders to turn over customer data so the company could show it had fought them. Yahoo said in a filing with the court last year that such disclosure would allow it to “demonstrate that it objected strenuously to the directives that are now the subject of debate, and objected at every stage of the proceeding,” but that its objections were overruled.

The Snowden documents, which revealed that the NSA has been collecting the phone records of hundreds of millions of Americans, include an April 2013 court order granting the NSA permission to collect Verizon customers’ records on an “ongoing, daily basis.” The order was good until July 19, according to a report by Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

Intelligence experts say the NSA program also swept up the records of other phone companies.

Verizon’s General Counsel Randal Milch says the government should publicly disclose the number of demands it makes for customer data. In December, responding to pressure from major shareholders, AT&T and Verizon said they will publish reports on the number of law enforcement requests for customer information, a disclosure Internet companies already make. Verizon’s first report, released in January, showed it received at least 1,000 government requests for customer information last year.

When asked why they’ve remained mostly silent about revelations documenting their cooperation with the government, Verizon referred The Associated Press to recent blogs by Milch.

“While we have a legal obligation to provide customer information to law enforcement in response to lawful demands, we take seriously our duty to provide such information only when authorized by law,” he wrote on Jan. 22.

Milch wrote on Jan. 27 that authorities can only ask for records stored in the U.S., and that if the government tries to obtain customer data stored outside the U.S., “we would challenge that in court.”

Sprint referred the AP to the CTIA-The Wireless Association’s statement that welcomes the Obama administration’s efforts “to start a dialogue to address these important issues.”

Although the agreement announced Jan. 27 only applies to five Internet companies, AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel implied it could affect telecom carriers as well.

“We welcome the opportunity to provide more transparency into government data requests and will take this new flexibility into account when we issue our initial transparency report, which will happen shortly,” Siegel says.

When asked if AT&T interpreted the ruling to apply to the company as well, AT&T refused further comment.

“They’re in very different situations, the telecoms versus the tech firms,” says Daniel Castro, a senior analyst with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, noting that historically their relations have been very different.

The much-younger Internet companies evolved in a new technological era, offering an array of electronic services in a constantly changing marketplace. The phone companies, functioning as communications utilities, developed in tandem with other traditional industries like railroads and were always closely regulated by the government.

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