Tech giants come together to demand NSA surveillance transparency

By on July 19, 2013, 3:30 PM
google, apple, mozilla, microsoft, facebook, nsa, twitter, reddit, dropbox, tech

Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook have come together along with several other major technology firms and civil liberty groups to demand a deeper level of transparency surrounding U.S. National Security Agency surveillance activity.

In a letter published yesterday, the more than 63 technology companies, trade groups and non-profit organizations called upon the U.S government to allow internet, telephone and other communications based service providers to disseminate requests they receive for user data in greater detail. More specifically the group is requesting permission to regularly share details regarding:

  • The number of government requests for information about their users
  • The number of individuals, accounts, or devices for which information was requested
  • The number of requests that sought communications content, basic subscriber information, and/or other information.

The group also calls upon the U.S government to share a similar data set, while pointing out that the NSA requests should be published much in the same way various law enforcement information has been for some time.

“Basic information about how the government uses its various law enforcement–related investigative authorities has been published for years without any apparent disruption to criminal investigations,” the letter reads. “We seek permission for the same information to be made available regarding the government’s national security–related authorities. This information about how and how often the government is using these legal authorities is important to the American people, who are entitled to have an informed public debate about the appropriateness of those authorities and their use.”

The letter comes on the heels of the National Security Agency’s secret “PRISM” program and the Snowden documents which led to speculation on Microsoft's involvement with NSA communications surveillance. Apple and Google have both also gone public with their stance on the issue, Google has even begun ramping up encryption across some of its services to reportedly prevent NSA attempts at accessing the data.

The letter was published yesterday by the Center for Democracy and Technology. Signatories include AOL, Apple, Digg, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Mozilla, Reddit, Twitter and Yahoo, among many others. You can read the full letter here (PDF).

Image via Salon




User Comments: 11

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2 people like this | IvanAwfulitch IvanAwfulitch said:

Hooray! The cat's out of the bag! Now the entire country knows undeniably that Google, Apple, Facebook, and MS are spying on their customers! Let's all call for 'transparency' to save face!

m4a4 m4a4 said:

Hooray! The cat's out of the bag! Now the entire country knows undeniably that Google, Apple, Facebook, and MS are spying on their customers! Let's all call for 'transparency' to save face!

You must be quite ignorant to think that the government hasn't been using US company info to spy on its citizens for quite some time now -_-

1 person liked this | IvanAwfulitch IvanAwfulitch said:

You didn't even read my post, did you. I have no illusions about this. The key word here was "undeniably", as in they have no plausible deniability to rely on anymore after what Snowden did. My entire post reeks of sarcasm, but I guess you didn't get that.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Give a kid some candy to stop them from crying.

The tech industry was fine with the way things were. And now they are looking for a way to silence the crowd, without actually fixing the issue.

More transparency, BS! Full transparency or continue to hear us *****. Send notifications to anyone that is in suspicion and under surveillance. The idea is to prevent crime, not wait for it to happen. Who knows your snooping and letting people know you are snooping may actually minimize crime. Allowing people to continue thinking they are not being watched is one step in allowing the incident to happen. I'm not against surveillance, I'm against them secretly doing so.

I remember years ago when Wallmart implemented surveillance and mounted black domes throughout the store. I often heard stories that not all of the domes had cameras. It didn't really matter though because if you saw a dome, you had suspicion there was a camera inside. Camera or not, I don't know about anyone else but I'm not gonna take the chance in view of a dome. From a criminal standpoint; would you jump in shark infested waters, if you thought it was safe or full of sharks.

I'm almost willing to bet all this trash talk would go away, if they would just come forward and tell the people what it is they are doing. And then fess up to the resources they have at their disposal.

Guest said:

Aside from the obvious constitutional violation, the spying is a service provided for the elite to make sure their sheeple keep in line. Any benefits big brother concedes is coincidental to the needs of the elite. YOU are the targets not the intended beneficiaries.

coppersloane coppersloane said:

Hooray! The cat's out of the bag! Now the entire country knows undeniably that Google, Apple, Facebook, and MS are spying on their customers! Let's all call for 'transparency' to save face!

Precisely my thoughts. They didn't care when it was being done without our knowledge; why do they care now? To save face. Opportunistic wankers.

MilwaukeeMike said:

The irony is of course, if the NSA makes public how they use all the data, then they won't have much use for it because criminals will work around the NSA guidelines.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

The irony is of course, if the NSA makes public how they use all the data, then they won't have much use for it because criminals will work around the NSA guidelines.
How is that irony when criminals are probably already doing so, because unlike us they already know all the facts?

Rinzler Rinzler said:

The US Gov't has always demanded access to ALL technology companies technologies PERIOD. The fact that this has become public lately doesn't mean they haven't all along.

Lamont Briggs said:

Good!!! Let's just hope it has an impact, and doesn't fall by the wayside. This is important, very, very important!

1 person liked this | IvanAwfulitch IvanAwfulitch said:

Good!!! Let's just hope it has an impact, and doesn't fall by the wayside. This is important, very, very important!

I don't see how this helps. Just because we can now see what information they are taking doesn't mean they're going to stop taking the information. And on top of that, how do we know that they're going to make everything transparent? What's stopping them from only showing 1 of their 5 cards in their hand? Transparency in this instance doesn't mean jack s***. They're still going to spy, they're still not going to show you what info they're taking, and you're still going to have a useless Constitution and Bill of Rights.

This isn't important at all. It's just a front to win the hearts of the people, and I hope and pray that it fails miserably.

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