Microsoft, Google and others unite to call for "government surveillance reform"

The controversies surrounding government surveillance of citizens have been well documented in recent weeks and months, and many of the tech companies that most of us rely on every day have, uncomfortably, found themselves at the heart of a global debate regarding user privacy. 

Today, eight of the world's tech giants - Microsoft, Apple, Google, Yahoo, Aol, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn - spoke with one voice, describing an "urgent need to reform government surveillance". In an open letter - addressed to President Obama and Congress - the companies presented a united front that sides firmly with the rights of their users. 

The letter says that "the balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual... This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It's time for a change." It also highlights efforts such as those recently announced by Microsoft, Yahoo and other companies to encrypt online services "to prevent unauthorized surveillance on our networks". 

The letter concludes by urging lawmakers in 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", and includes a link to a new cooperative website launched by the eight companies highlighting their campaign for change. outlines five principles, which the companies are calling on governments to "endorse and enact": 

  • Limiting governments' authority to collect users' information, with a clear focus on the type and scale of data being requested and collected
  • Oversight and accountability, with strong checks and balances in place, and independent and adversarial review processes
  • Transparency about government demands, allowing companies to publish data on the number and nature of requests
  • Respecting the free flow of information and not inhibiting users' access to lawfully available information across borders
  • Avoiding conflicts among governments with a framework for cross-jurisdiction information requests 

In a separate blog post on its own site, Microsoft's Brad Smith said that while the company believes "technology is a powerful tool that can help people... people won't use technology they don't trust. Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it." 

Today's call for action by these companies is a significant step, but it remains to be seen whether their unified lobbying efforts will yield the results that they desire. 

Source: / Microsoft

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Lets hope something is also done about remote sensing and Remote Neural Monitoring technologies. This is where the real warrantless surveillance is occurring, from satellites and other remote locations, letting the government track everything you say, think, and do, on top of the communications you have over wired and wireless networks.

Link with more details, patents covering the technology, and videos with NSA Whistleblower Russell Tice discussing this madness on Abby Martin and MSNBC:


I fear pantomime here , appeasement due to recent revelations. Not blaming the companies, but if it were my job at government to try to make people feel secure in their own privacy again I'd welcome this, while simply moving the actual surveillance tech to a lower level.

I'm very cynical though, time will tell i suppose.

seem like a hypocrisy to me, if weren't for snowden revelations these hypocrites companies wont ever made this stunts.

Torolol said,
seem like a hypocrisy to me, if weren't for snowden revelations these hypocrites companies wont ever made this stunts.

They were "legally" forbidden to talk about it. I seriously doubt their shareholders would find them risking the future of their respective companies by revealing this themselves amusing. Cat's out of the bag now though.

Their actions were "illegal" by every definition and by "they" I mean both the alphabet agencies and the companies that went along. Don't think for a second incentives right along with threats weren't used when dealing with these companies. It's just gotten to the point where now they have to appear concerned because it could affect their business and affect quality of surveillance. A new false sense of security would be very valuable here don't you think? Snowden was hero the world, too bad much of it doesn't realize that yet.

I'm not justifying the end result by any stretch -- all I'm saying it's *very* easy to play the martyr card on a forum when it's not your business with billions of dollars on the line, never mind potential imprisonment. I don't doubt that incentives were involved too, but the bottom line is that the companies in question were forced not to talk about it. It's all documented in those leaks. Now that the world knows they can finally start doing something about it without putting their collective heads in a noose. Put the blame where it belongs.

I see where you're coming from, but if the public doesn't punish companies for behaving badly, they will just continue to do it. Imagine if some of these companies were actually forced out of business due to this...the remaining might begin to care about customers instead of just trying to look like they do. I've got news for you, there is A LOT more MS and the others are still not telling us...and why should they?

Pluto is a Planet said,

Funny how AOL and LinkedIn are on top of each other, Apple and Microsoft are on top of each other, twitter and Facebook, and Google and Yahoo.

ians18 said,

Funny how AOL and LinkedIn are on top of each other, Apple and Microsoft are on top of each other, twitter and Facebook, and Google and Yahoo.

Just a coincidence since they're in alphabetical order.