Microsoft joins tech giants to reform government surveillance

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Microsoft joins tech giants to reform government surveillance

Following yesterday’s revelations surrounding government infiltration within Xbox Live and World of Warcraft servers in attempts to catch terrorist activities – which according to Microsoft and Blizzard was done without their knowledge – several tech giants have banded together to petition President Obama and members of Congress in order restrict government surveillance of private data.

Microsoft, Google, AOL, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Twitter, and even Facebook – who I’m surprised joined the coalition considering their lacklustre attempts this past summer at keeping your information private – launched a new website called Reform Government Surveillance, which outlines five main principles that the President and Washington to consider.

Last week, Microsoft corporate affairs executive Brad Smith expressed his concerns regarding “government snooping,” reassuring consumers that steps to ensure governments use legal methods of surveillance were being made.

On the new website, Smith wrote, “people won’t use technology they don’t trust. Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it.”

The newly formed coalition says governments  should limit surveillance to “specific, known users for lawful purposes, and should not undertake bulk data collection of Internet communications.”

The website also features quotes from executives at the seven companies.

“Reports about government surveillance have shown there is a real need for greater disclosure and new limits on how governments collect information. The US government should take this opportunity to lead this reform effort and make things right,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said.

It’s promising to see some resistance from companies when it comes to snooping on consumers. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes, and whether any significant changes will come out of it.

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The open letter to Washington can be read below.


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 users’ 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,


AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo