Microsoft, Google, and Facebook Call on U.S. Government to Limit Spying Activities

Eight software technology companies have called on the United States government to limit its spying activities to specific targets, to overhaul the country's secret spy courts, and let service providers publish more detailed information about surveillance requests from the government. Companies signing the letter include Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, AOL, and LinkedIn. The open letter was sent to President Obama and members of Congress as well as being reprinted in a full-page ad in The New York Times and other newspapers.

The open letter said that "governments should limit surveillance to specific, known users for lawful purposes and should not undertake bulk data collection of Internet communications." There should be a clear legal framework to regulate spying, and "[r]eviewing courts should be independent and include an adversarial process, and governments should allow important rulings of law to be made public in a timely manner so that the courts are accountable to an informed citizenry."

The letter also stated that companies should be allowed to "publish the number and nature of government demands for user information," the companies said on their website, reformgovernmentsurveillance.com. "In addition, governments should also promptly disclose this data publicly."

Data should flow freely across borders, with companies and people able to access "lawfully available information that is stored outside of the country." Also, "[g]overnments should not require service providers to locate infrastructure within a country’s borders or operate locally." Finally, governments should create "a robust, principled, and transparent framework to govern lawful requests for data across jurisdictions" because the laws of countries could conflict with each other.

"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 letter stated. "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."

We'll have more on this story as it develops.

The White House has not made any public comment on the letter.

Source: Ars Technica

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