Eight of the top technology firms in the United States have formed an alliance to reform surveillance policies and practices around the world, starting with the U.S.
Together AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo have formed the Reform Government Surveillance group. While these companies are usually strong competitors, they are brought together through one unifying concept: Government surveillance practices are undermining the freedoms of their users, and they should be stopped.
Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed the NSA had real-time access to content on some Internet companies’ servers, was able to get around encryption, and was also tapping into the communication links between Google and Yahoo’s data centers. As a result, the Reform Government Surveillance group believes it’s time to address the current government surveillance practices on individuals and their information.
“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,” the Reform Government Surveillance group wrote in an open letter addressed to President Barack Obama and members of Congress.
“We urge the U.S. 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.”
In a recent appearance on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” program, Obama addressed the NSA surveillance practices.
“The people at the NSA generally are looking out for the safety of the American people. They are not interested in reading your e-mails or text messages, and that’s not something that’s done,” he said.
Obama also acknowledged that Snowden’s disclosures did cause some areas of legitimate concern that he planned on reforming, and he will propose some “self-restraint” and reforms for the NSA to give citizens more confidence.
The alliance has outlined five reform principles on its website: limiting governments’ authority to collect users’ information; creating oversight and accountability; providing transparency about government demands; respecting the free flow of information; and avoiding conflicts among governments.