Dear Mr. President and Members of Congress,
We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform both government and corporate surveillance practices worldwide. The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favour of large corporations and 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.
For our part, we are focused on making money and so have become trapped by our own business models which compel us to gather more and more detailed information on people. We wanted to offer great internet services but in order to compete in a world where charging for services is unthinkable we have been compelled to become huge surveillance networks rather than actually providing services to paying customers in accordance with the principles of free exchange. We are forced to gather information on people without their meaningful and fully conscious consent. This is a market failure which commercial enterprises like ourselves are helpless to stop.
We urge the US to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that both government and corporate surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight.
Sincerely, AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo
Unfortunately that wasn’t the letter they wrote. Rather the for profit spying agencies called upon government to stop damaging their business models by reducing trust in their surveillance networks. You can read their somewhat hypocritical letter here. Restrict government surveillance – absolutely – but why should you trust corporations any more than governments? Especially since they presumably knew about the NSA spying long before the Snowden revelations and failed to act.