Apple, Google, Facebook join forces to oppose surveillance

Alliance of tech companies says public's faith has been 'shaken' by Edward Snowden data revelations

LAST UPDATED AT 09:32 ON Mon 9 Dec 2013

SOME of the biggest names on the internet say revelations about bulk data collection have "shaken the public's faith" in the web. They are calling for the "urgent reform" of the surveillance practices employed by governments worldwide, the BBC reports.

Eight firms, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Yahoo, have formed an alliance called the Reform Government Surveillance group. It has written to the US President and Congress arguing that the widespread collection of phone and internet data revealed by classified documents leaked by US whistleblower Edward Snowden undermines the public's freedom.

"We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens," says the letter published on the group's website. "But this summer's revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide."

The letter continues: "The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favour 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 a change."

The group wants two things: an international ban on the bulk collection of data and limits on the laws that compel internet companies to pass data to government intelligence agencies. Although the letter is directed at all governments, the Financial Times says, US intelligence "leads the world in its capacity and ability to conduct surveillance on the internet".

The Guardian calls the letter the tech companies' "most concerted response yet" to the National Security Agency (NSA) revelations. It says the demands of the Reform Government Surveillance group mirror bipartisan legislation proposed by Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Crucially, the paper says, Silicon Valley and these key reformers in Congress now "agree the NSA should no longer be allowed to indiscriminately gather vast quantities of data from individuals it does not have cause to suspect of terrorism in order to detect patterns or in case it is needed in future". · 

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