[Related: 15 Ways to Make Sense of Calls for NSA Reform ]
Early on, seeking to counter the notion that the NSA had opened a backdoor into their data centers, a handful of companies began pressing the government for permission to publish more information about the nature and scope of the information requests they receive and how they respond to them.
Then in October, reports surfaced that the NSA had secretly hacked into the interconnections between the overseas data centers of Google and Yahoo, detailing a brazen intelligence-gathering effort that appeared to operate at the margins of U.S. law.
"That was when the companies got really publicly angry," says Kevin Bankston, policy director of the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation.
In addition to the joint litigation seeking greater transparency on government data requests, several companies that compete vigorously in the marketplace have banded together to form the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, championing a series of principles that would limit federal intelligence authorities and introduce new oversight and accountability measures.
"We've seen a lot of movement from the companies. We've seen unprecedented things. We've seen Apple, Microsoft and Google sitting down in a room together and agreeing to do something together with five other major companies in the form of this ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com effort where they've put forward a bunch of surveillance reform principles," Bankston says.
Through that effort, the group has enlisted the services of a lobbying firm to spread its message on Capitol Hill. Meantime, several companies have been beefing up their own security procedures to guard against government intrusions.
"They've been aggressively pursuing transparency reporting in an attempt to restore trust. We've seen a number of them acting very quickly to encrypt their data links. Many companies that had not had HTTPS turned on before are now finally turning it on," Bankston says.
Silicon Valley vs. the NSA
Expanding their presence inside the Beltway could be an important step for tech firms seeking curbs on the NSA's intelligence gathering, according to Mieke Eoyang, a long-time congressional staffer who now serves as director of the National Security Program at the think tank Third Way.
"Silicon Valley's had a very standoffish attitude towards Washington, and part of it is engaging with Washington to explain what they do," Eoyang says. "But then this is also beyond Silicon Valley."
Eoyang points to a recent report in the New York Times that detailed efforts on the part of intelligence authorities to insert radio frequency technology into computers to expand the scope of their surveillance activities. In some cases, the report alleged, the transmitters were added to the computers after they had been purchased and put into use, but it also noted that hardware manufacturers had been complicit in installing the monitoring devices.