Internet vs. Government: Google et al

Photograph by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and chief executive officer of Facebook Inc., center, rides on the Senate subway with Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, left, following a meeting with members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 19, 2013.

The biggest names in online communications are aligning in a bid to rein in unfettered government surveillance.

“It is time for the world’s governments to address the practices and laws regulating government surveillance of individuals and access to their information,” Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo and others write in an open letter today at reform governmentsurveillance.com.

“While the undersigned companies understand that governments need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety and security, we strongly believe that current laws and practices need to be reformed,” they write.  “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.”

Among their suggestions:

“Governments should codify sensible limitations on their ability to compel service providers to disclose user data that balance their need for the data in limited circumstances, users’ reasonable privacy interests, and the impact on trust in the Internet. In addition, governments should limit surveillance to specific, known users for lawful purposes, and should not undertake bulk data collection of Internet communications.”

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