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Appeared on: Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Tech Companies "Fight Back" Against Surveillance

Expansive surveillance programs damage user trust, stifle innovation, and risk a divided Internet, a coalition of leading technology firms said as theyjoined an international protest Tuesday against the U.S. government's spying programs.

Tuesday, February 11th marked "The Day We Fight Back" against mass surveillance. Top executives from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, AOL, LinkedIn and Twitter published a joint statement and sent a letter Tuesday to President Barack Obama and members of Congress.

The coalition of tech firms, known as Reform Government Surveillance, is urging changes that would include a government agreement not to collect bulk data from Internet communications.

The coalition urged the U.S. government to "codify sensible limitations on their ability to compel service providers to disclose user data that balance their need for the data in limited circumstances." The group also called for strong "independent" court review that includes "an adversarial process."

"..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," the letter reads.

For their part, the companies said they were deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized surveillance on their networks and had pushed 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," the letter concluded.

By the time of publication, "The Day We Fight Back" peition was signed by 129,000 internet users.




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