Before Congress’s holiday recess, Silicon Valley’s major tech companies have renewed calls for surveillance reform. Executives from Google, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, Linkedin, Twitter, and (TechCrunch parent company) Aol have put their weight behind Reform Government Surveillance, publishing an open collective letter to Congress and President Obama.
Since whistleblower Edward Snowden first revealed the National Security Agency’s vast telephone and Internet dragnet, the tech companies have become increasingly vocal about reform. This is not the first time that tech companies/competitors have come together behind this cause.
In the letter, the tech companies have outlined five new reforms that they would like to see:
- Limit surveillance to targeted threats, rather than bulk collection
- Provide greater oversight for surveillance
- More transparency about how many users are being surveilled
- Allow the “free flow of information” by not requiring “service providers to locate infrastructure within a country’s borders or operate locally.”
- Establish standard of rules across all governments
The first three of these have already been proposed by a few groups in Congress and more reforms could be added as Congress reconvenes next year.
The text of the letter follows below, with testimonial quotes from the companies on the site itself:
An open letter to Washington
Dear Mr. President and Members of Congress,
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.
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.
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 independ- ent oversight. To see the full set of principles we support, visit ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com
AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo