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How To Beat The NSA: Lobbying By Google, Apple Uncovers A Way

James Dennin, Kapitall: Lobbying by Google and other tech companies may create a way out of US demands for more information. 

Last week we wrote about how the world's newfound privacy concerns, in the wake of Edward Snowden's NSA spying leaks, may be creating a new headache for American technology firms. Many of these tech stocks make at least a portion of their money sharing and transmitting information.

Their heads may be hurting for good reason.

The EU has already passed legislation that would levy huge fines – 5% of a company's revenue – on any company that shared information on European citizens with the US. 

(Remember, that's revenue, not profit, which theoretically means a company would still face huge fines even if it wasn't making any money for itself, or shareholders.) 

Now it seems like those very firms have finally found reason to breathe a sigh of relief. Broad political consensus and bipartisan support has been achieved for a new bill in Congress, allowing technology firms to disclose:
  • When the US government demands information from them.
  • Who that information is about.
  • And what exactly that information is.

Given that journalists protecting sources get no such guarantee, the law would be a major victory for those with privacy concerns, not to mention American companies who still have a mind to do business across the pond. And American citizens can sleep a little easier knowing its possible for their Congress to get laws passed – provided you have someone like Google (GOOG) picking up the lobbying tab. 

America's biggest tech firms, including Google, Apple (AAPL), Yahoo! (YHOO), Facebook (FB), and LinkedIn (LNKD) combined to spend about $6.7 million on lobbying costs over the course of the quarter. That's about twice what they spent over the same period last year, with Google covering about half. 

The bill could have more long-term economic ramifications as well – perhaps it'll help Obama get back some of the leverage lost when our allies realized we were tapping many of their phones. 

So will these tech stocks benefit as the new bill makes it's way through Congress?

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