Technology firms urge changes to US spying

Summary:Top executives from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, AOL, LinkedIn, and Twitter have published a joint statement calling for greater oversight and transparency about the NSA's secret operations.

A coalition of the United States' leading technology firms joined an international protest against the US government's spying programs, urging more limits on collections of Americans' data and greater oversight and transparency about the secret operations.

Top executives from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, AOL, LinkedIn, and Twitter have published a joint statement and sent a letter on Tuesday to US 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 to not collect bulk data from internet communications.

Technology companies expressed outrage last year after media accounts based on leaks from former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden disclosed that the US and the United Kingdom intercept massive amounts of metadata abroad from foreign users and sometimes from Americans.

Executives highlighted their concerns during talks with administration officials about the spying programs, but Obama did not commit to curtailing the NSA's sweeps of data from the internet.

The stance taken by the technology firms provided a public boost to "The Day We Fight Back", a day of protest against the government's spying operations organised by civil liberties and privacy advocates.

Activists urged Americans to write and call members of Congress in protest. By late morning, organisers claimed that backers had sent 42,000 emails and made nearly 15,000 calls to Congress.

"Reports about government surveillance have shown there is a real need for greater disclosure and new limits on how governments collect information," said Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg in a statement on the Reform Government Surveillance website.

"The US government should take this opportunity to lead this reform effort."

Obama has committed to the involvement of a panel of public advocates in some proceedings of the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, which oversees electronic spying operations. However, under Obama's proposal, the advocates would have limited ability to intervene.

Topics: Security, Privacy, Tech Industry

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