While they are each others competitors and rivals in the tech world,an octet of leading technology companies have today joined together to ask the US to take lead in ending government surveillance.
AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo joined together to propose principles for reforming government surveillance laws and practices through an open letter addressed to the President of the United States and Members of the United States Congress.
The five principles that the tech companies endorsed were Limiting Governments' Authority to Collect Users' Information, Oversight and Accountability, Transparency About Government Demands, Respecting the Free Flow of Information and Avoiding Conflicts Among Governments through working together. (For further clarification on the set of principles visit www.reformgovernmentsurveillance.com.)
Through the letter the companies expressed their knowledge on the duty of the governments to protect their citizens and thus the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide.
They also added that the balance in many countries had tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual that are enshrined in the Constitution therefore undermining the freedom cherished.
The undersigned companies, Company Executives also provided statements on the principles of reform:
"AOL is committed to preserving the privacy of our customers' information, while respecting the right of governments to request information on specific users for lawful purposes. AOL is proud to unite with other leading Internet companies to advocate on behalf of our consumers," said Tim Armstrong, Chairman and CEO, AOL.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook also said,"Reports about government surveillance have shown there is a real need for greater disclosure and new limits on how governments collect information. The U.S. Government should take this opportunity to lead this reform effort and make things right."
"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." Larry Page, CEO, Google
"These principles embody Linkedin's fundamental commitment to transparency and ensuring appropriate government practices that are respectful of our members' expectations." Erika Rottenberg, General Counsel, LinkedIn.
"People won't use technology they don't trust. Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it." Brad Smith, General Counsel and Executive Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft
"Twitter is committed to defending and protecting the voice of our users. Unchecked, undisclosed government surveillance inhibits the free flow of information and restricts their voice. The principles we advance today would reform the current system to appropriately balance the needs of security and privacy while safeguarding the essential human right of free expression." Dick Costolo, CEO, Twitter
"Protecting the privacy of our users is incredibly important to Yahoo. Recent revelations about government surveillance activities have shaken the trust of our users, and it is time for the United States government to act to restore the confidence of citizens around the world. Today we join our colleagues in the tech industry calling on the United States Congress to change surveillance laws in order to ensure transparency and accountability for government actions." Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo.
The companies are mainly focused on keeping users' data secure deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized surveillance on their networks and hence pushing back on government requests to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope.