Microsoft is joining forces with AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and Yahoo in asking the government to make reforms to be made to online surveillance. The widespread gathering of data by the NSA has come in for heavy criticism after it was revealed by Edward Snowden -- further investigations by the Guardian newspaper uncovered the extent to which government surveillance of internet usage is.
The coalition has written to President Obama calling for changes to be made so that faith in the internet can be restored. Without this, Microsoft warns that "People won’t use technology they don’t trust".
While is it slightly unusual to see these eight names mentioned together, it is believed that in presenting a united front the campaign will have more weight than if each company lobbied government individually.
The joint venture runs under Reform Government Surveillance banner and there is a website where you can read the open letter as well as the demands made by the coalition.
The letter reads:
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. 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 change.
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.
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. To see the full set of principles we support, visit ww.reformgovernmentsurveillance.com.
AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo
The other members of the group have voiced concerns outside of the letter. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo says "Unchecked, undisclosed government surveillance inhibits the free flow of information and restricts their voice." Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg says "Reports about government surveillance have shown there is a real need for greater disclosure and new limits on how governments collect information."
In addition to the letter, the coalition is calling for government to limit surveillance to specific users rather than adopting the catch-all method that has been used thus far. It also calls for greater transparency and accountability, the ability to share data globally, and for a global framework to be put in place that would allow all governments to work to the same model.
What would make you happy with regard to surveillance? Should governments be limited to targeting known criminals, or is there ever a just reason to blindly trawl the internet in the hope of gathering data that will hopefully prove useful?