In a rare move to fight the man, eight large technology firms are allying together to ask for reform in government surveillance. Led by a coalition that includes Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and others, these firms are putting their differences aside, at least temporarily, in an open letter to President Obama asking that the U.S. government curb surveillance of digital communications.
“The undersigned companies believe 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,” the letter begins. “We strongly believe that current laws and practices need to be reformed.”
The open letter follows public backlash after Edward Snowden revealed claims that the United States’ National Security Agency, or NSA, was snooping on digital communications. Subsequently, it was revealed that the government was also eavesdropping on communications with other foreign leaders, including the German Chancellor.
Following Snowden’s revelations, these firms said that they are unable to clear their names and restore public trust due to a gag order issued by the U.S. government. It’s still unclear how much participation, involvement, or knowledge of government surveilance these companies had in advanced, though many publicly deny and illegal breach of data.
In drafting the letter, the Reform Government Surveillance website listed 5 principles:
- Limiting governments’ authority to collect users’ information
- Oversight and accountability
- Transparency about government demands
- Respecting the free flow of information
- Avoiding conflicts among governments
“The principles we advance today would reform the current system to appropriately balance the needs of security and privacy while safeguarding the essential human right of free expression,” Twitter’s CEO stated.
“For our part, we are focused on keeping users’ data secure — deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized surveillance on our networks and by pushing back on government requests to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope,” the letter continues.
“Recent revelations about government surveillance activities have shaken the trust of our users, and it is time for the United States government to act to restore the confidence of citizens around the world,” Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer wrote. “Today we join our colleagues in the tech industry calling on the United States Congress to change surveillance laws in order to ensure transparency and accountability for government actions.”
The letter was signed by AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo.