The biggest names in tech launched their staunchest effort yet to change the way the U.S. and other governments collect user data from the Internet. The heads of eight of America’s largest tech companies — a roster that includes Google’s Larry Page, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook — endorsed the campaign to call for new limits on government surveillance.
All together, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, LinkedIn and AOL issued an open letter to President Obama and members of Congress calling for reforms and restrictions on government surveillance. “While the undersigned companies understand that governments need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety and security, we strongly believe that current laws and practices need to be reformed,” the CEOs said.
Tech giants are scrambling to regain users’ trust in the wake of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s leaked documents that showed a high frequency of government snooping on people’s online activities. Since then, the largest Internet companies have attempted to become more transparent about the NSA’s surveillance requests in an effort to prove they’re not government stooges — and a path to reform is laid out in this latest open letter.
The Reform Government Surveillance effort calls for five changes: limiting government authority to collect user information; better oversight and accountability of intelligence agencies, more transparency about the government’s demands; respect for the free flow of data across borders; and avoiding conflicts between governments.
“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,” the letter says. “This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for a change.”