The NSA—National Security Agency—has been under heavy fire in the past several months for spying on Internet users and consumers. Now, many of the biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley are taking a stance on the issue, pointing out what they believe the limitations of global government surveillance should be, what they are concerned about, and what exceptions should be made.
Together, Google, AOL, Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo! released an open letter, filled up ad space, and got a new website going called “Reform Government Surveillance: Global Government Surveillance Reform.”
“While the undersigned companies understand that governments need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety and security, we strongly believe that current laws and practices need to be reformed,” the website reads. The site lists five key principles that should be taken into account for this reform:
- Limiting Governments’ Authority to Collect Users’ Information—finding a balance between respecting user privacy and collecting data for “lawful purposes.”
- Oversight and Accountability—having a clear legal framework that keeps authority figures in check and independent reviewing courts that are free to make important rulings public.
- Transparency About Government Demands—making publicly available the “number and nature of government demands for user information.”
- Respecting the Free Flow of Information—permitting the transfer of data across borders for better flow and access internationally.
- Avoiding Conflicts Among Governments—creating a “robust, principled, and transparent framework to govern lawful requests for data across jurisdictions.” Conflicting laws mean the involved governments would need to work together to resolve matters.
“The security of users’ data is critical, which is why we’ve invested so much in encryption and fight for transparency around government requests for information,” said Larry Page, CEO of Google. “This is undermined by the apparent wholesale collection of data, in secret and without independent oversight, by many governments around the world. It’s time for reform and we urge the US government to lead the way.”