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Open Letter to Washington: Google, Apple, and Microsoft Agree, NSA Spying Undermines Freedom

In an open letter to President Obama and Congress, eight of the most prominent U.S. tech companies have demanded that strict new limits be put on government surveillance, citing revelations made earlier this summer, when stories based Edward Snowden’s leaked documents began running in The Guardian. “The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favour of the state and away from the rights of the individual,” they argue, “rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for a change.”

The companies, led by Google and Microsoft, presented a plan to regulate online spying and urged the United States to lead a worldwide effort to restrict it. They accompanied it with an open letter, in the form of full-page ads in national newspapers, including The New York Times, and a website detailing their concerns.

Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and AOL all have an interest in restoring public trust in their products and averting new regulatory challenges in countries disinclined to let spying by the U.S. on the Internet.

Together, they affirm that current surveillance policy—what Team Obama presides over right now—threatens constitutional rights, individuals rights, and freedom. Prominent American companies don’t often make that sort of objection. And their reform agenda is grounded in five principles likely to please most NSA critics:

In an open letter to President Obama and Congress, eight of the most prominent U.S. tech companies have demanded that strict new limits be put on government surveillance, citing revelations made earlier this summer, when stories based Edward Snowden’s leaked documents began running in The Guardian. “The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual,” they argue, “rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for a change.”

letter to nsa washington

Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and AOL all have an interest in restoring public trust in their products and averting new regulatory challenges in countries disinclined to let a spying hegemon control the Internet.

In the letter, the way the tech giants have made their gives a significant boost to reform-minded members of Congress, as The Guardian helpfully explains. The “list of five ‘reform principles’ signed by the normally fiercely competitive group echoes measures to rein in the NSA contained in bipartisan legislation

1) Limiting Governments’ Authority to Collect Users’ Information
2) Oversight and Accountability
3) Transparency About Government Demands
4) Respecting the Free Flow of Information

“The government needs to listen to people, to examine whether their policies are fit for the digital age. It’s not that people aren’t used to their data being collected, but what it is being collected for, and there needs to be a distinction between the average person and a security threat.”

The eight internet companies behind the new letter also acknowledge that business also has a responsibility to protect privacy.

“For our part, we are focused on keeping users’ data secure, deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorised surveillance on our networks, and by pushing back on government requests to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope,” they conclude.

“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.”

Google, Twitter, Yahoo and last week Microsoft have all responded to public concerns over surveillance by increasing the security of their products, introducing “perfect forward secrecy” encryption to protect information travelling on their internal systems.

“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,” said Google’s chief executive, Larry Page.

“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.”

Read More at The Atlantic


 

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