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Apple and Other Tech Companies Call for Government Surveillance Reform

nsa_logo Apple, along with seven other U.S. technology companies such as Microsoft, Facebook, and Google, have published an open letter urging President Barack Obama and members of Congress to reform government surveillance tactics, reports The Wall Street Journal. The letter, which can be found on a website endorsed by the tech companies, will also appear in full-page ads in the Monday editions of several publications such as The New York Times and the Washington Post.
Dear Mr. President and Members of Congress,

We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide. 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 a change.

For our part, we are focused on keeping user’s data secure — deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized surveillance on our networks and by pushing back on government requests to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope.

We urge the US to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight. To see the full set of principles we support, visit ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com

Sincerely,

AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo
The various tech companies have also published a set of principles that they believe governments should follow, including the limitation of government authority to collect users' information, oversight and accountability, transparency about demands, respect for the free flow of information, and the avoidance of conflicts among governments.

Concerns about government use of user data collecting began ramping up in June, when a U.S. government program named PRISM was revealed to be giving the U.S. National Security Agency direct access to user data on corporate servers across a wide spectrum of Internet companies including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple.

In response, Apple published a statement of "Commitment to Customer Privacy" denying its participation in the NSA's program and teamed up with a number of tech companies to request greater NSA surveillance transparency, allowing it to provide customers with regular reports on security related requests. Last month, Apple also published a report outlining statistics on government and law enforcement requests it received from January to the end of June.

Apple and other companies also met with President Obama in August to discuss privacy issues and government surveillance. Recently, Apple and 30 other technology corporations signed a letter urging the U.S. Congress to pass the Surveillance Order Reporting Act of 2013 and the Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013, which would result in increased surveillance disclosures and would give technology companies the right to publish detailed statistics on demands for user data.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the comment thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All MacRumors forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

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13 months ago
The government right now.
Rating: 29 Votes
13 months ago

I'm also a believer in that if you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide.


Good point. Makes the NSA look pretty bad with the culture of secrecy and lying to congress about it, doesn't it?

I'm a believer in if you've done nothing wrong, you do not deserve to be treated (such as having your constitutional rights thrown in the trash) as though you have. A government that regards all its people as criminals isn't a government, it's a prison guard.

Freedom is inversely proportional to security, even by the very definition of the words.
Rating: 24 Votes
13 months ago

but I'm also a believer in that if you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide.


True. But just because I know I'm keeping a neat and clean home doesn't mean I'll have an Open House for Public Health officials to come in as they please.
Rating: 21 Votes
13 months ago
Going by the statements of Zuckerberg and Meyer when the PRISM program was first revealed, it seems clear that the problem they have with government surveilance is less its existence but more the fact it's being talked about and makes their companies look bad - which translates into lost business.

Finding a way to make people think it's all gone now without actually changing anything will do just nicely in the eyes of those two CEOs, even when the reality ends up being very different.
Rating: 13 Votes
13 months ago

I'm pretty sure Apple is leading this effort and the others are just tagging along for the ride.


Seriously? Based on what? Or is that just what you want to believe?

As others have said, if Apple (or others) are so vehemently opposed to this, why didn't the make a stand against it before it became public knowledge?
Rating: 12 Votes
13 months ago
Why am I up this late?
Rating: 11 Votes
13 months ago
Why did they do this before it became public knowledge, since they were complying with government requests.

No free PR in that I suppose.
Rating: 10 Votes
13 months ago
I agree. I think this is the right direction and something we can all get behind, as long as it's not lip service.

I mean only six months ago the government agencies were denying all this... And then recently the FBI revealed they can spy on you through your iSight without the indicator light and such...

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As for the 'nothing to hide crowd' I'm sure a few in Europe in the 40's had nothing to hide as well. Thats a lot of power, and given into the wrong hands plays big trouble. Regardless on what aisle you think your on.
Rating: 7 Votes
13 months ago
I think this is going in a good direction
Rating: 5 Votes
13 months ago

[...] but I'm also a believer in that if you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide.

The thing is, you are wrong. Everybody has something to hide. And the stuff your neighbor or your friends don't need to know, the government certainly doesn't need to know.

But that is not even the real issue with these things.

The thing is, if the government knows everything about you, you can be manipulated. If you know you are being listened too, you will choose your words more carefully or not say certain things. It undermines the rights of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association. And by that, it directly undermines democracy. These are very, very Bad Things™.

Unfortunately, most people don't realize this and not speak out or otherwise try to do something about it. They will when it is too late, but what are you going to do when it is too late?

First they came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the Socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

A good talk on the subject of security and consequences: http://www.ted.com/talks/mikko_hypponen_how_the_nsa_betrayed_the_world_s_trust_time_to_act.html

When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty.” - Thomas Jefferson.
Rating: 5 Votes

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