In an open letter to Washington, eight major technology companies are calling for sweeping changes in the way the U.S. government collects information on citizens.
The letter was signed by AOL Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook Inc., Google Inc., LinkedIn Corp., Microsoft Corp., Twitter Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. In documents leaked by former defense contractor Edward Snowden, most of these companies have been listed as being among the targets where the U.S. government is extracting digital information as part of a massive surveillance effort.
"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 companies say in the letter to President Obama and members of Congress. "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."
In the letter, the companies call on the U.S. and other governments to enact "sensible limitations on their ability to compel service providers to disclose user data."
The disclosures have left many tech companies, which collect vast amounts of user data as part of their businesses, worried that customers might defect or be less willing to share their information if they think the government is snooping on them.
"People won’t use technology they don’t trust," wrote Brad Smith
general counsel and executive vice president at Microsoft. "Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it."
The coalition also launched a website for the campaign that includes a list of quotes from the company's leaders.
"Reports about government surveillance have shown there is a real need for greater disclosure and new limits on how governments collect information," said Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook. "The U.S. government should take this opportunity to lead this reform effort and make things right."