A total of eight prominent tech companies are urging President Obama and Congress to rein in the surveillance state.
In an open letter to President Obama and Congress, eight of the most prominent U.S. tech companies have demanded that strict new limits be put on government surveillance, citing revelations made earlier this summer, when stories based Edward Snowden`s leaked documents began running in The Guardian. "The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual," they argue, "rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It`s time for a change. They`ve staked out an extraordinary position.
Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and AOL all have an interest in restoring public trust in their products and averting new regulatory challenges in countries disinclined to let a spying hegemon control the Internet. My colleague James Fallows has written eloquently about the damage the NSA`s behavior could do to U.S. economic might as other countries react to it. The companies could`ve made a compelling case for reform on those grounds alone. Instead, they`ve gone quite a bit farther.
Together, they affirm that current surveillance policy—what Team Obama presides over right now—threatens constitutional rights, individuals rights, and freedom. Prominent American companies don`t often make that sort of objection.
The way the tech giants have made their gives a significant boost to reform-minded members of Congress, as The Guardian helpfully explains. The "list of five `reform principles` signed by the normally fiercely competitive group echoes measures to rein in the NSA contained in bipartisan legislation proposed by the Democratic chair of the Senate judiciary committee, Patrick Leahy, and the Republican author of the Patriot Act, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner," the newspaper reports. "Crucially, Silicon Valley and these key reformers in Congress now agree the NSA should no longer be allowed to indiscriminately gather vast quantities of data from individuals it does not have cause to suspect of terrorism in order to detect patterns or in case it is needed in future."
If legislators vote on mass surveillance on innocents, the pressure they face from tech companies could prove to be a decisive factor. Stay tuned for what`s next.