In a recent development in the ongoing debate regarding the mass collection of online data by the NSA, the heads of several major tech companies have written an open letter to the president and congress, urging the U.S. government 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.”
[Read the full report and letter here]
This is a definite shift as many of these same companies have, in the past, cooperated to some degree with the NSA’s intelligence gathering operations. That being said, it certainly can’t hurt to have these major firms on the side of privacy – even if it turns out to be a mostly rhetorical move designed to re-instill trust in an increasingly skeptical consumer base.
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 a 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 independent oversight. To see the full set of principles we support, visit ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com.
AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo
Voices for Change:
“AOL is committed to preserving the privacy of our customers’ information, while respecting the right of governments to request information on specific users for lawful purposes. AOL is proud to unite with other leading Internet companies to advocate on behalf of our consumers.” – Tim Armstrong, Chairman and CEO, AOL
“Reports about government surveillance have shown there is a real need for greater disclosure and new limits on how governments collect information. The US government should take this opportunity to lead this reform effort and make things right.” – Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook
“The security of users’ data is critical, which is why we’ve invested so much in encryption and fight for transparency around government requests for information. This is undermined by the apparent wholesale collection of data, in secret and without independent oversight, by many governments around the world. It’s time for reform and we urge the US government to lead the way.” – Larry Page, CEO, Google
“These principles embody LinkedIn’s fundamental commitment to transparency and ensuring appropriate government practices that are respectful of our members’ expectations.” – Erika Rottenberg, General Counsel, LinkedIn
“People won’t use technology they don’t trust. Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it.” – Brad Smith, General Counsel and Executive Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft
“Twitter is committed to defending and protecting the voice of our users. Unchecked, undisclosed government surveillance inhibits the free flow of information and restricts their voice. 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.” – Dick Costolo, CEO, Twitter
“Protecting the privacy of our users is incredibly important to Yahoo. 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. 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.” – Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo