Reform Government Surveillance coalition created by Facebook, Google, others

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Facebook, Google, Twitter, AOL, LinkedIn, Yahoo, and Microsoft have created a coalition to denounce spying tactics by governments globally. The Reform Government Surveillance coalition hopes to make changes to the way governments spy, both online and off.

“The undersigned companies believe that it is time for the world’s governments to address the practices and laws regulating government surveillance of individuals and access to their information,” the coalition website reads, “We strongly believe that current laws and practices need to be reformed.”

Agencies in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom, to name a few, are targeted by the coalition for reform. Much of their activities were revealed when Edward Snowden, former NSA contractor, released leaked documents about spy techniques. Other revelations from Wikileaks and other transparency groups have brought many of the world’s spy agencies under fire in recent years.

The reform government surveillance groups stands on 5 pillars:
  1. That governments’ authority to collect user information should be limited
  2. That there should be more oversight and accountability
  3. That there needs to be a lot more transparency around government demands
  4. That the “free flow” of information should be respected and not inhibited
  5. That governments should work with each other to protect their citizens’ privacy even where those laws may differ

Pundits have pointed out that despite campaign promises and pulpit assurances to the contrary, governments have become less transparent, not more so. One legacy of the George W. Bush presidency is secrecy and denial and those mantras did not stop with President Obama, despite rhetoric to the contrary.

The coalition’s website has thoughts from the CEOs of most of the companies signing onto the Reform Government Surveillance call for action.

“We urge the US to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law,” ends the website’s plea.