Top Tech Giants Seeking Reform For Federal Surveillance Practices
December 9, 2013

Top Tech Giants Seeking Reform For Federal Surveillance Practices

[ Watch the Video: Teaming Up To Prevent Snooping ]

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Typically rivals, eight of the largest tech companies in the US have found common ground in the call for changes to federal surveillance laws and greater transparency about the government’s data collection practices.

AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo have joined forces to develop a website and pen an open letter to the Obama administration calling for reform in the wake of revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) has collected extensive data on computer users with little to no judicial oversight.

According to CNNMoney’s Sophia Yan, the tech giants claim that there is an “urgent” need for reform following past revelations from NSA-leaker Edward Snowden claiming, among other things, that “the agency had apparently tapped into the fiber optic cables that carry data between the servers of major American tech companies including Google and Yahoo.”

She added that the companies are calling for “a clear legal framework for surveillance actions, limits to government data collection and greater transparency about government actions.”

On their website, the organization is pushing for data collection to be limited to “specific, known users for lawful purposes” and the elimination of “bulk data collection of Internet communications.” They are also calling for oversight and accountability in the form of “strong checks and balances,” permission to make public “the number and nature of government demands for user information,” and a framework to govern data requests across jurisdictions.

“The proposals bring the companies closer to the views espoused by privacy and human rights advocates,” as well as legislation known as the USA Freedom Act – “one of several bills drafted in response to the controversy over the revelations,” Washington Post technology reporter Craig Timberg explained on Sunday. He added that the technology industry “has emerged in recent years as one of the more influential in Washington, after years when companies often were content to stay on the legislative sidelines and avoid conflict.”

Leslie Harris, president of the Washington DC based advocacy group The Center for Democracy and Technology, told Timberg that the “united call for surveillance reform is a game changer” when it comes to the issue of NSA data collection.

Similarly, Jon Swartz of USA Today said that the formation of this “anti-NSA coalition” was formed in order to “rein in the vast tentacles of the NSA and – perhaps – salve the worries of privacy-conscious consumers.”

In the letter, The Guardian – the UK newspaper that originally brought Snowden’s revelations to light -- said the companies assert that “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 added. “It’s time for change.”

“Around the world, consumers and governments have begun to question how safe it is to use American technology products, and in the words of Microsoft's signatory to the letter ‘People won't use technology they don't trust,’” said BBC News analyst and technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.

“The companies have prided themselves on the security of their customers' data. Now they have had to concede that governments have wide access to that data - and they are vowing to use strong encryption to repair the holes in their defenses,” he added. “But don't expect the intelligence agencies to sit back and do nothing - the scene is set for continuing conflict between the spies and Silicon Valley over control of the internet.”