Technology firms seek government surveillance reform

Leading global technology firms have called for “wide-scale changes” to US government surveillance.

Eight firms, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Yahoo, have formed an alliance called Reform Government Surveillance group.

The group has written a letter to the US President and Congress arguing that current surveillance practice “undermines the freedom” of people.

It comes after recent leaks detailed the extent of surveillance programmes.

“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 group said in an open letter published on its website.

“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.
Continue reading the main story
image of Rory Cellan-Jones Analysis Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

The fact that eight technology giants which are normally bitter rivals have united to condemn the extent of government surveillance shows just how strongly they feel.

In part, this reflects the libertarian thinking that permeates Silicon Valley – but there’s also a commercial aspect to their concerns.

Around the world, consumers and governments have begun to question how safe it is to use American technology products, and in the words of Microsoft’s signatory to the letter “People won’t use technology they don’t trust.”

The companies have prided themselves on the security of their customers’ data. Now they have had to concede that governments have wide access to that data – and they are vowing to use strong encryption to repair the holes in their defences.

But don’t expect the intelligence agencies to sit back and do nothing – the scene is set for continuing conflict between the spies and Silicon Valley over control of the internet.