Tech companies seek limits on government surveillance
December 9th, 2013
07:21 AM ET

Tech companies seek limits on government surveillance

By Evan Perez

Some U.S. technology giants are asking the Obama administration and Congress to rein in government surveillance.

Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Google and Microsoft are among the companies signing an open letter arguing that surveillance has gone too far. The companies say they're improving encryption and fighting to limit surveillance requests, but they're also asking for new legal changes to limit surveillance.

This comes after recent revelations from documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. His leaks have lifted the veil on the agency's vast surveillance databases, many of which are part of programs with intelligence agencies in other countries. The aim, the NSA and other agencies say, is to prevent terrorism and protect security.

In their joint letter, the companies say they understand that "governments have a duty to protect their citizens." But, they say: "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."

The law requires tech companies to cooperate with court-ordered surveillance programs, and the NSA is known to use other means to snoop on e-mail and other communications.

The companies are now seeing a backlash from customers. And in some cases, U.S. companies are seeing their businesses hurt in other countries, because they are viewed as working too closely with U.S. intelligence.

Microsoft's general counsel, Brad Smith, gave a nod to the effect the Snowden disclosures are having on the companies.

In a blog post, Smith said: "People won't use technology they don't trust. Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it."

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Filed under: Edward Snowden • NSA
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. allenwoll

    .
    Smokescreen !
    .
    One CAN NOT know whether he is being snooped.
    .
    Therefore, one CAN NOT know whether he is NOT being snooped.
    .
    Answer : Do NOT be "snoopworthy" in your activities !
    .

    December 12, 2013 at 9:25 am | Reply
  2. Mark K

    I wish the NSA would do one thing....find where the fraud and telemarketing scam calls are coming from so the authorities can arrest the originators. How many of us get these calls from numbers and companies that don't exist? Time to put good use to this spying thing... don't spy on us, spy FOR us.

    December 11, 2013 at 8:27 am | Reply
    • tee

      No way, man. That involves helping out the public.

      December 11, 2013 at 6:07 pm | Reply
  3. rodwick1@gmail.com

    Its too late for the American Tech giants. The trend has already started. Smart technology users are moving to European based technology companies where their personal communication rights will be protected at a level one would have previously expected to be enforced by the US government. Its a sad time when profit, power and fear rule a once proud nation.

    December 10, 2013 at 11:31 am | Reply
  4. Joe Smith

    How come these same companies aren't saying anything about reducing the amount of data that THEY collect about us? I don't like anybody gathering data about me without my permission, neither the government nor private businesses.

    December 9, 2013 at 11:47 pm | Reply
  5. simplyput

    Simplyput no play facebook or any social media. Why worry?

    December 9, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Reply
  6. Seth A Drekin

    Don't know why people freak out about this stuff. Tech companies gather and store far more information about you than the government could ever dream of doing. You don't want to be tracked, ditch the iPhone.

    December 9, 2013 at 11:45 am | Reply
    • File52

      Healthcare? Your searches, credit card purchases of legal sin items like alcohol say not so fast...
      Getting a divorce? Your Google Searches will determine the court case
      Getting a job? Credit, DNA, Facebook and Google Searches
      You want to vote somebody to clean up government? They do NSA style research on to get him/her to drop out of the race.
      Your IPhone, license plate readers track how often you go to a bar, casino or other?
      Have kids? You think they he won't make a mistake online that you will pay for by keeping him your basement till you 80!

      Preserve the 4th amendment because your wallet and democracy depends on it.

      December 9, 2013 at 5:38 pm | Reply
    • Jason

      Why are these tech companies going after the NSA. They are partners, it doesn't make sense.

      December 9, 2013 at 6:13 pm | Reply
  7. yippeeskip

    Oops, better watch what I say...

    December 9, 2013 at 11:17 am | Reply
  8. Logictox

    They aren't really spying, they are just watching what we do, what we surf for, where we go with cell data. You know the kind of things government needs to know about the public, it's for our own safety! Really it is!

    December 9, 2013 at 10:46 am | Reply
  9. guest

    It feels as though the gov't surveillance is effectively reducing the quality of service provided on the internet. Much traffic is going through these choke points.

    December 9, 2013 at 10:35 am | Reply
  10. Enough is Enough

    What's the big deal? When you expect the government to care for you from cradle to grave you have to expect them to exert their parental rights.

    December 9, 2013 at 10:31 am | Reply
    • Volatility

      Watch this female MC flow about surveillance? search this video

      active member – kamera strammenh panw mou

      "The surveillance state is actually Google, Microsoft, Facebook et al. Without their vast troves of private customer records, the NSA would have nothing to look at."

      December 9, 2013 at 10:43 am | Reply
    • The REAL TRUTH...

      If that's the case.. why are you whining about it?

      December 9, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Reply
      • Volatility

        Because she is upset. Sadahzinia – Στο χρώμα της στάχτης

        December 9, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
  11. PaulG

    All for the illusion of safety...

    December 9, 2013 at 9:14 am | Reply
  12. fiddecornell

    If people are worried about online privacy they can use services like https://motherpipe.com (search) and Adblocker(to prevent third party tracking) and HTTPS Everywhere (encrypted surfing). More stuff at https://prism-break.org/.

    December 9, 2013 at 8:41 am | Reply
    • Volatility

      Now you want us to use a 3rd party solution supported by the same coalition that has misused private information. wow

      December 9, 2013 at 5:03 pm | Reply
  13. Harold Richards

    Why are these tech companies throwing such a fit:
    - Obama said the NSA does not spy on US citizens
    - The head of the NSA said they did not spy on US citizens
    - The Obama Administration spent millions to setup the PRISM facility to monitor cellular and internet traffic (even though they can't make a working Obamacare website)
    - It is on record that they have been capturing data
    - They have been caught spying on the leaders of allied countries

    We need the NSA to be the envy of the KGB and for it to make Himmler proud. Forward!!!

    December 9, 2013 at 8:36 am | Reply

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