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Apple, Microsoft, Google and others ask for less NSA snooping

Please reform the surveillance system
Mon Dec 09 2013, 09:40
Tech firms want altruistic changes to surveillance

MANY OF THE WORLD'S largest information technology firms have written an open letter to the US government asking for surveillance reform.

Firms that have put their names to the letter are Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, Apple, and Linkedin.

The letter is published online at Reform Government Surveillance and calls for urgent reform of existing practices.

The eight firms call up Edward Snowden's US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblowing revelations about the scale of NSA and other global surveillance.

"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," it says.

"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."

The firms have petitioned for the right to be more open about the number of surveillance demands they receive from governments, but their requests have fallen on deaf ears.

Their letter says that they do all that they can and are working towards doing all they can to secure and encrypt communications, and it adds that they would like to see government follow their leads.

"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," they add.

"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."

They recommend five points, including increased transparency and reductions in data demands. They also request more oversight, although more open oversight would be more appropriate, and the free flow of data.

"Governments should permit the transfer of data and should not inhibit access by companies or individuals to lawfully available information that is stored outside of the country," they said.

"Governments should not require service providers to locate infrastructure within a country's borders or operate locally."

They do not explicitly say it but the changes would also be good for business. The firms have all been dragged through the PRISM mud since the NSA surveillance revelations started appearing in the press, and all - though implicated - have denied involvement. µ


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