Google and other tech leaders want the government to restrict data collection on the Internet

After uniting over issues with net neutrality, tech leaders are once again coming together to protect the consumers. In an open letter penned to the United States government, AOL, Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo are pleading with elected officials to put an end to data collection on the Internet in the age of Edward Snowden and the NSA.

The timely letter is written ahead of a Senate vote of the USA Freedom Act in the next few weeks that would help to keep the Internet safe and secure.

A version of the bill had recently passed in the House, but that version, according to these tech giants, still allows the U.S. government to collect metadata on the Internet. This means that in the case of emails, the government could still obtain information like who is sending the message and who the recipient is. The technology companies that signed the letter are asking for greater protections than the House bill provides.

Asking that the government restricts data collection and allows technology companies to better report what data is being requested under new transparency rules in a bid to restore confidence in the Internet, the companies say that "it is critical to our customers that the bill allow companies to provide even greater detail about the number and type of government requests they receive for customer information."

"We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens," the letter signed by Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Satya Nadella, and other technology leaders reads. "But the balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual."

Citing that "confidence in the Internet" had been eroded domestically and internationally over the past year, these technology firms are asking that "U.S. surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent, and subject to independent oversight."

Source: Reform Government Surveillance


Reader comments

Tech leaders unite on government data collection reform


ha wasn't this the same group not too long ago using Carrier IQ to surreptitiously steal your personal data and sell it? and now they found religion!

first it's the government's righteous outrage about privacy against the tech companies! now it's the tech companies against the government! at least they're keeping each other honest with their faux outrage.

Honestly, I don't mind private companies using my info to further their business. If they didn't make money off of me, I wouldn't be able to use their service (for free). Also, we have to give private companies permission, aka "using their service". The government on the other hand, likes to take my info and money without permission. That's agitating.

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I like that Google can see what I've been shopping for, helped me find a site for something I could not find or find in stock thanks to one of their ads. That's all google tries to do is attract you to ads for things you have searched for. Usually though I use adblock plus because all the flash ads slow down my pc and the webpages, but normal ads are fine, just hate the ones that use flash.

This is all great; I support Google's reform push... But the is irony is a bit thick.

The named corporations collect/store a 100 times the data (on the consumer), in comparison with the government. Much worse, they use it in conjunction with third party companies (customizing adds, etc). Google looks at my emails to determine what adds will catch my eye. The Government looks at my emails to watch what I'm saying... both are invasions of my privacy. That said, Google is an optional service; the government isn't.It's somewhat moot with me anyway; I don't click adds and I'm not a terrorist, so I'm less of an interest to both parties. I still prefer my privacy on principal, which is why I push for reform.

I might be mistaken, but as far as I know, Google doesn't read your emails and doesn't really need to in order to sell your shopping habits. When you are logged in and searching web pages, making bookmarks that's what they can catch and sort out. Also if you buy something using your email - say they can see an incoming email address from a specific company. Also check in or make a restaurant reservation using your email.
Again, I would like to hear from someone more knowledgeable here, if my perception is right - that the Content of your emails remain private.
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The question is why do they want to stop government surveillance reform? Because the way it is right now the government asks for information on someone and these companies have to provide it to the government free of charge. Making that illegal allows these companies to charge the government for this information. It's just another source of revenue.

Dude, common... that was a joke, right??

The government can't "buy" illegal information, nor would they (given the option). To much of a paper trail; to many involved. If the government was to obtain "illegal" information, they'd just use the methods they implement today. The NSA & GCHQ have already been 'outed' for catching data (without corporate permission) while in transit. Meaning, the bulk of the data they capture today, was not by request to corporations. No one busted them on this, it's purely from Snowden's leaks, meaning know one can even prove it's happening.

If laws changed, they would revert back to subpoenas via court order. No one makes money on this, but the corporations who sell our information (legally) with our permission.

I don't think you understand. The information would be illegal for them to obtain by themselves. But they would be allowed to legally purchase that information from companies. Just like when the police want your gps data they pay the wireless carrier for that information.

if you are from the US, you are misinformed. US law requires a subpoena for any and all information from a cell phone, including GPS location. police agencies can only track a GPS without a subpoena it's an emergency 911 call was just received from the cell phone.sorry bud, that's the law.

however, the FBI and NSA can do whatever the hell they want at the moment. the Patriot Act allows them full access to all private material without subpoena if they "suspect" you are in association with terrorism. 'Terrorism', however, is loosely defined, giving them full access to just about anyone.

I was wondering where you get your information. I'm a defense lawyer and I've never heard of a law that required police to get a warrant for cellphone tower data and gps. I've argued many times under fourth amendment rights to exclude that information but have been struck.
Also if you look at the financial statements of the wireless carrier's it does they are being paid for that information.

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Companies must be reimbursed for the time it takes them to gather the information that the government requests. They are not paid for the data itself. Paying for the time makes sense as it costs the company man-hours outside of their typical business needs to gather the information.

Did you even read the article? It proves my point. I know that case very well. That case is about police putting a gps in a suspects vehicle without a warrant. That was an article urging people to contact their members of Congress to make a law that makes it unconstitutional to get information about a person's location from a wireless carrier. Where did you go to school for law?

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In the end it will mean nothing. If any government wants your data, they will find a way to get it. Laws or no laws. It never stopped them before. We didn't even know about all that NSA stuff before Snowden came forward. Sadly the Pandora 's box has been opened and IMO the average user won't be able to close it, nor will any company regardless of size.

Just take a look at the huge data center the NSA built in Utah. That complex dwarfs many corporations home complexes. Does anyone really believe that place is going away, or have it's power taken away anytime soon?

No corporation, no matter their size or clout can withstand a direct assault from a government that's bent on their destruction. It's a fact that is documented in history.

Even if a user or company finds a way to block spying, that in and of itself will raise flags among those who do the spying. They will be wondering "hmm what are these people trying to hide"?

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LOL at Mark Zuckerberg being a part of this movement. Isn't Facebook the same company under fire for one of its glorious "updates" yet again? This time, the mobile app can turn on your mic to record conversations so your friends know what you're upto. All these companies shouting for so-called privacy reform are major violators of said privacy anyway. What's worse is that they do it to turn massive profits.

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Thanks for this article!
Well written and, given the complexity of the topic, you've done a good job to keep it clear.
Between this and your other recent articles, I think you are bringing a great new dimension to AC!