Eight tech firms join forces to tackle surveillance

By James Riches topicIcon Internet News

Reform Government Surveillance group wants "wide scale changes"

AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo have written a joint letter to the US government in protest against surveillance practices.

Campaigning under the banner of the Reform Government Surveillance group, the eight tech giants have responded to the revelations published in the Guardian newspaper following Edward Snowden's leaks.

The companies have released an open letter in which they say they "understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens", but that "The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favour of the state and away from the rights of the individual".

The information released by Snowden in June, which appears to show that government agencies had access to phone and online records for US citizens, has become one of the biggest stories of the year.

Snowden has been forced to flee the country amid the furore, and is currently believed to be in Russia. He is expected to give evidence to the European Parliament via video link about the case before the end of the year.

Companies determined to show commitment to user privacy

Each of the eight companies involved has its concerns about the impact of current surveillance practices on users, and wants greater transparency for users.

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg called for "new limits" and "greater disclosure" surrounding the issue, while Google's Larry Page criticised governments worldwide for "the apparent wholesale collection of data, in secret and without independent oversight".

One of their goals is to be allowed to publish details of data requests they receive from the government. Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have already done so since the Snowden revelations broke, while Page was careful to distance Google from PRISM entirely.

Daniel Nolan, managing director at theEword, said: "The fallout from these revelations shows no sign of abating, and the fact that these competitors are happy to join forces on this shows just how contentious the issue is. They will hope to reassure users with this move and demonstrate their commitment to giving customers as much information as possible."