Good news this morning that big online technology companies, including Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, AOL and LinkedIn, are joining together in opposition to the worldwide government surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden.
The political push by the technology companies opens a third front in their battle against government surveillance, which has escalated with recent revelations about government spying without the companies’ knowledge. The companies have also been making technical changes to try to thwart spying and have been waging a public-relations campaign to convince users that they are protecting their privacy.
“People won’t use technology they don’t trust,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, said in a statement. “Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it.”
Apple, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, AOL and LinkedIn joined Google and Microsoft in saying that they believed in governments’ right to protect their citizens. But, they said, the spying revelations that began last summer with leaks of National Security Agency materials by Edward J. Snowden showed that “the balance in many countries has tipped too far in favour of the state and away from the rights of the individual.”
The companies advocate “new surveillance principles…includ[ing] limiting governments’ authority to collect users’ information, setting up a legal system of oversight and accountability for that authority, allowing the companies to publish the number and nature of the demands for data, ensuring that users’ online data can be stored in different countries and establishing a framework to govern data requests between countries.” Most notably, notes Amy Peikoff, “the companies urge that indiscriminate bulk data collection be forbidden.”
As Amy recognises, this represents the industry most affected refusing to apply the sanction of the victim, whicb si great news.
The technology for surveillance is still only in its infancy. Lose the battle now against state surveillance, before the technology matures, and it will be far, far too late.