It is rare for Google, Microsoft and Apple to agree on anything, but the trio have come together with five other US-based technology firms to demand an overhaul of American surveillance laws.
In an open letter to the White House and congress, the companies urged officials in Washington “to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight.”
The eight companies that signed the letter – AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo – are some of the biggest names in the internet economy, but also some of the largest firms who had user data trawled by US intelligence services.
“We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide. The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual – rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for change,” the letter said.
Earlier this year, whistleblower Edward Snowden was instrumental in unveiling the scale and scope of surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA), sparking calls for reform within and outside the US.
“We urge the US to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight,” the letter said.
The companies said that they future reform needed to follow key principles – limiting governments’ authority to collect users’ Information, oversight and accountability, transparency about government demands, respecting the free flow of information and avoiding conflicts among governments.
Although the group, which calls itself Reform Government Surveillance, addressed its letter to US authorities, the letter said that “it is time for the world’s governments” to address the practices and laws regulating government surveillance of individuals and access to their information.
(Photo: Zsuzsanna Kilian/sxc.hu)