Eight leading technology companies called on the U.S. government Monday to end bulk data collection of Internet communications and to lead a worldwide effort to implement other reforms to surveillance policies.
The groups – AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo – detailed five proposed reforms on a website and in a letter to President Obama and the U.S. Congress. They want courts that review surveillance policies to use a clear legal framework, have adversarial proceedings and publicize big decisions. They also are asking that governments limit their authority to collect data to specific, known users; allow companies to publish the number and nature of demands for records; respect the free flow of information across borders; and work to avoid conflicts amongst nations in policies that govern data requests.
The companies explained in the letter that this summer’s revelations from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden highlighted the need for reform. “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,” the technology leaders wrote.
Some privacy advocates, though, say the tech groups are encouraging surveillance by storing so much data. “The companies are placing their users at risk by collecting and retaining so much information,” Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told The New York Times.