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Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, LinkedIn, and Yahoo have banded together to created the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, declaring that spy tactics around the world need to change now.
“The undersigned companies believe that it is time for the world’s governments to address the practices and laws regulating government surveillance of individuals and access to their information,” the coalition website reads, “We strongly believe that current laws and practices need to be reformed.”
The National Security Agency, the U.K.’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), and others, including Australia’s government, have come under attack for their surveillance practices since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden released many leaked documents about their spy techniques. These include blanket data collection orders to U.S. telecommunications companies, special data-sharing relationships with major tech companies, and fiber optic cable taps on unencrypted areas of these companies’ data centers. Many of the companies included in the initial PRISM leaks are represented in this reform group.
The reform government surveillance groups stands on five pillars:
- That governments’ authority to collect user information should be limited
- That there should be more oversight and accountability
- That there needs to be a lot more transparency around government demands
- That the “free flow” of information should be respected and not inhibited
- That governments should work with each other to protect their citizens’ privacy even where those laws may differ
Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and others have already lobbied the government to change its surveillance practices. More specifically, the companies have called for transparency from the government. This includes allowing these tech giants to publish exact numbers of government data requests made under the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, Google CEO Larry Page, and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo all contributed their thoughts on the reform government surveillance page, which ends with an open letter to Washington. It ends:
“We urge the U.S. to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law.”