Washington: Setting aside their differences, top American technology companies including AOL, Apple, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Microsoft, have joined hands to press the Obama Administration and the Congress to reform the secretive National Security Agency.
The agency is in controversy following the leak of classified documents that it was indulged in massive telephone and internet surveillance both inside and outside the U.S., at time sneaking into the private communications on people, compromising the security settings of these technology giants.
“This summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide,” these firms wrote in an open letter to the U.S. President and Members of the Congress in national print advertisements on Monday.
“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 letter said.
As such, technology giants urged the U.S. 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.
“We are focused on keeping user’s data secure - deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized surveillance on our networks and by pushing back on government requests to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope,” the letter said.
It said U.S. surveillance programs shouldn’t keep American tech companies from operating internationally, including in countries that oppose U.S. access to their citizens’ data.
“Protecting the privacy of our users is incredibly important to Yahoo. Recent revelations about government surveillance activities have shaken the trust of our users, and it is time for the United States government to act to restore the confidence of citizens around the world,” said Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer.
“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 Google CEO Larry Page.
“Unchecked, undisclosed government surveillance inhibits the free flow of information and restricts their voice. The principles we advance today would reform the current system to appropriately balance the needs of security and privacy while safeguarding the essential human right of free expression,” said Twitter CEO Dick Costolo.
“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 U.S. government to lead the way,” he said.
“Reports about government surveillance have shown there is a real need for greater disclosure and new limits on how governments collect information. The U.S. government should take this opportunity to lead this reform effort and make things right,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
These companies said they 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.
“While the 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,” they said.
“Consistent with established global norms of free expression and privacy and with the goals of ensuring that government law enforcement and intelligence efforts are rule-bound, narrowly tailored, transparent, and subject to oversight, we hereby call on governments to endorse the following principles and enact reforms that would put these principles into action,” they said.