Tech giants make appeal to reform government surveillance tactics

Eight technology companies have identified principles that they believe would curtail another NSA storm

Up to this point, most technology companies simply voiced their displeasure with surveillance tactics from the National Security Agency (NSA). But now, some plan to take action.

Eight technology giants are making a joint appeal to reform government surveillance tactics, according to an open letter appearing on and in ads across major newspapers on Dec. 9. In the letter, the companies say that the government should be more transparent in its attempt to gather information.

“Consistent with established global norms of free expression and privacy and with the goals of ensuring that government law enforcement and intelligence efforts are rule-bound, narrowly tailored, transparent, and subject to oversight, we hereby call on governments to endorse the following principles and enact reforms that would put these principles into action,” the letter said.

The appeal is co-signed by Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo, LinkedIn and AOL. These companies identified five principles that they believe all governments, not just the United States, should keep in mind when enacting reform legislation:

  1. Limiting governments’ authority to collect users’ information
  2. Oversight and accountability
  3. Transparency about government demands
  4. Respecting the free flow of information
  5. Avoiding conflicts among governments

Several executives from these companies also released statements to go along with the letter. Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer said, “Recent revelations about government surveillance activities have shaken the trust of our users, and it is time for the United States government to act to restore the confidence of citizens around the world.”

Microsoft GC Brad Smith echoed her sentiments, saying, “People won’t use technology they don’t trust. Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it.”

Technology companies have been outspoken about their disapproval of NSA surveillance tactics since the program was revealed in May 2013. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg previously said the agency “blew it” with its tactics, while Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond said the company was “outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone” to gather information.


InsideCounsel has been on the legal side of the NSA story from the beginning. Get yourself caught up with all the recent developments here:

EU calls on U.S. to restore trust post-Snowden surveillance revelations

Qualcomm CEO says NSA surveillance affecting business in China

Facebook CEO says government “blew it” with surveillance tactics

6 notable GCs in the news

Proposed Brazilian action hopes to deter NSA spying

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Zach Warren

Zach Warren is Assistant Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he oversees online content submissions and administers InsideCounsel's enewsletters. Zach specializes in new media and multimedia...

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