Eight leading technology companies yesterday called on the US to overhaul its surveillance laws to better balance the needs of security and individual rights, in the wake of former US National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden’s leaks.
In an open letter to US President Barack Obama and the US Congress, AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo said Washington should lead the way in a worldwide reform of state-sponsored spying.
“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 letter said.
“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,” it said. “This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for a change.”
“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,” the letter added.
Since June, newspapers across the world have revealed the wide scope of government spying by publishing classified documents leaked by Snowden, who is now on the run in Russia.
The letter ran in full-page ads in several newspapers, including the New York Times.
The group further detailed their security concerns on the Web site Reform Government Surveillance. Statements posted on the site show that top company officials fear the public does not trust that tech giants will — or can — keep their online activities private.
“People won’t use technology they don’t trust,” Microsoft’s Brad Smith said. “Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it.”