Tech Giants Publish Open Letter Seeking Surveillance Limits

Some of the biggest names in Internet technology have penned an open letter to President Obama and members of Congress, warning that the National Security Agency's moves are harming public trust in the Internet.

"People won't use technology they don't trust," said Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice president of Legal and Corporate Affairs at Microsoft. "Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it."

Microsoft, AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and Yahoo signed the letter, which urges the U.S. to take the lead and make reforms that ensure government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent, and subject to independent oversight.

"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. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It's time for a change."

Five Principles

The companies went on to say that, for their part, they are focused on keeping users' 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 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. "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."

Five principles are suggested...

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