The world’s most powerful technology firms united today in calls to curb government spying on internet users.
Bosses from Apple, Facebook, Google, AOL, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo said ‘it’s time to change’ surveillance laws and practices in the wake of revelations about massive U.S. spying on citizens.
The rare show of unity by usually fierce competitors is seen as a reflection of the damage in public confidence inflicted by leaks from Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower.
Earlier this year he revealed how U.S. and British spy agencies were able to harvest huge amounts of data – including emails and search history – on millions of people by tapping into internet servers.
In the open letter to President Barack Obama and Congress, the company chiefs said states had trampled on constitutional rights with the wholesale trawling of citizens’ internet information.
They demanded better oversight of government surveillance operations and new legal limits on how states can obtain sensitive, private information.
It read: ‘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 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 change.
‘For our part, we 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.
‘We urge the U.S. to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight.’