The world's leading technology companies have united to demand sweeping changes to US surveillance laws, urging an international ban on bulk collection of data to help preserve the public's “trust in the internet”.
In their most concerted response yet to disclosures by the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Twitter and AOL will publish an open letter to Barack Obama and Congress on Monday, throwing their weight behind radical reforms already proposed by Washington politicians.
“The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favour of the state and away from the rights of the individual rights that are enshrined in our constitution,” urges the letter signed by the eight US-based internet giants. “This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for change.”
Several of the companies claim the revelations have shaken public faith in the internet and blamed spy agencies for the resulting threat to their business interests. “People won’t use technology they don’t trust,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel. “Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it.”
~ from NSA Surveillance: Tech Companies Demand Sweeping Changes to US Laws by Dan Roberts and Jemima Kiss ~
It seems rather ironic that corporations who regularly spy and collect hordes of data from their often unsuspecting users are demanding that the federal government not spy and collect hordes of data so much from the unsuspecting masses. There is an obvious reason why these tech giants have committed to this drastic action: money. If people don't trust the internet, they might not rely on it so much and this development could put a serious dent in the bottom line of these companies.
There is no way to gauge how serious these outfits are. Only a very naive person would not understand that, at the very least, this could be nothing more than a savvy pr move. Were it not for Edward Snowden, most of the revelations related to this open letter would have remained hidden from public view. The abuses would have been the same, but it's hard to imagine ANY of these corporations going to bat for the rights of citizens out of the apparent blue. My guess is that, as long as the bottom line was not impacted, these giants wouldn't give a wit about possible governmental abuses of power.
That said, beggars can't be choosers. If this open letter helps to create the political will to put some serious constraints on the NSA, then I welcome it. Just don't expect me to sing praises for the altruistic actions of Microsoft or Google.