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, "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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  1. 0
    GrimCW says:

    "Opt-in" but they'll do it regardless of if you opted in or not.

    They have contracts to literally sell this information and government based ones to collect and provide it regardless. 

    In a couple of them (Google/FB) its something they've done for their own profit before making it purportedly optional and publicly known. 

    Unless thats changed in recent years.

  2. 0
    Mr.Tastix says:

    When you sign-up for Facebook or Google's services you understand that some of your information will be sold to third-party networks, mostly for trying to sell you products via ads. This is completely opt-in and is discussed in the terms of service and other policies for the services.

    The NSA doesn't adhere to this. There is no NSA terms of service that you can opt-out of. They either steal your information for only the Gods know what or they don't.

    Facebook, Google and Microsoft might not be stellar individuals when it comes to policies but have you ever had the NSA come knocking at your door? It's not something you'd ever want happen to you but that's exactly what has happened to these huge companies.

    It's not as if Microsoft, Facebook or Google want to give away the data, they are forced to. The NSA doesn't care how big or small you are, they'll threaten and crush you all the same. If you're not with them, you're against them, and they'll oust you out however they can in pursuit of knowledge.

    I think these sites should've fought earlier (being that the NSA needs them more than they need the NSA) but when peoples lives have been destroyed by these people, would you want that stress? Ask what you would have done in their shoes. Taking what might be the immoral way out shouldn't be considered "evil", because in the same position an average man would do the same.

    Frankly, I find the self-righteous attitudes of those against the NSA to be hypocritical at best. Walk a mile in the shoes of a slave and see how it feels like. The NSA is hardly different to a modern-day slave master, and everyone are the slaves, not just you or me.

  3. 0
    Wymorence says:

    Ditto. I chuckled a bit when I saw Facebook's name on that list. What's probably the most anti-privacy website out there asking for privacy from the government? XD

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