Facebook, Google, Microsoft and more unite to limit government surveillance on users

World’s top technology companies including Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, and LinkedIn have jointly undertaken a project to bring about a change in the Government surveillance policies.

“While the undersigned companies understand that government’s need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety and security, we strongly believe that current laws and practices need to be reformed”, reads the webpage formed for ‘Global Government Surveillance Reform’.

Coalition of companies that are otherwise considered rivals shows how urgent has the matter of Government surveillance, and the resulting privacy concerns and trust issues among users of these service providers, has become. The move is possibly triggered by the documents and revelations provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the Government spying on citizens. The companies have even written an open letter to the US Government.

The principles that these companies are proposing for government policies of surveillance include:

1. Tangible limitations on Government’s authority to compel service providers to disclose user data and also limit surveillance to specific, known users for lawful purposes, instead of bulk data collection of Internet communications.

2. Increased accountability of the executive powers in terms of working under a defined legal framework and strong checks

3. More Transparency in government demands, which includes allowing the companies to publish the number and nature of government demands for user information

4. Allowing “free flow” of information across borders without restricting service providers with mandatory local infrastructure.

5. Constructing a framework that governs data requests across jurisdictions to avoid conflicting laws.

Statements on the website by CEOs of each of these companies also echo the increasing concern about lack of user trust even while the companies invest a lot in encryption and protection of user data.

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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. 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 US government to lead the way”, said Larry Page, CEO, Google.

To contact the author, write to asmita@wirefootindia.com

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