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Apple, Google, Microsoft and other tech giants team up to fight NSA spying tactics

09 Dec 2013
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Eight of the world's largest technology companies have signed a joint letter to the US president and congress, demanding reform on the methods used by government agencies to gather user data.

The open letter, published on the Reform Government Surveillance website, has been signed by Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Yahoo, AOL and Twitter. The letter states that "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."

Reflecting previous rhetoric from all the companies, including joint letters and petitions, the demands made of the US government also match up with the USA Freedom Act, a bill currently being put to the House of Representatives.

The letter also asks for governments to put in place "sensible limitations" on how they make requests for user information. "Governments should limit surveillance to specific, known users for lawful purposes, and should not undertake bulk data collection of internet communications," it adds.

It calls for greater transparency over how data requests are recorded, with the firms once again asking to be able to publish the number and extent of user data requests they receive. Currently, requests made under the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) cannot be published by law.

The website also contains statements from various technology executives. Microsoft's general counsel Brad Smith said: "People won't use technology they don't trust. Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it."

Google chief executive Larry Page, meanwhile, said his firm had made significant investment in securing its users' data, which was now being "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."

Revelations stemming from documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden caused a crisis of confidence in the tech industry, when it was revealed that the the government had tapped supposedly secure data via firms including Google and Yahoo.

Google has since begun encrypting all of the data stored in its cloud services, while Twitter has begun to use "forward secrecy" measures in order to better protect user data.

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Michael Passingham
About

Michael Passingham joined V3 as a reporter in June 2013. Prior to working at V3, Michael spent time at computing magazine PC Pro. Michael covers IT skills, social media, tech startups and also produces V3's video content.

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