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Tech giants including Facebook, Twitter and Apple back anti-US government data snooping bill


By John McCarthy, Opinion Editor

November 17, 2014 | 3 min read

US tech firms have come together to battle online surveillance from the NSA by backing a bill legally preventing it from capturing and storing mass user data.


The firms look to be able to more effectively defend their users' data

The Reform Government Surveillance coalition, backed by AOL, Apple, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo, put its name to the USA Freedom Act, a bill which would lessen the power US intelligence agencies have when it comes to “compelling” firms to provide access to data, according to the Guardian.

Furthermore, if passed, the bill would restrict the NSA to collecting data for “specific, known users for lawful purposes" banning it from "bulk data collection of internet communications”.

Gary Shapiro, chief executive of the Consumer Electronics Association (CES), a trade organisation representing the US electronics industry, also blamed government snooping for the loss of his clients international contracts, citing the firm’s incapability to protect sensitive information under current US law.

Shapiro said: "American technology companies have been hurt by reaction to the revelation of the US government’s bulk data collection. Many companies have lost business, or face laws designed to restrict data flows, due to foreign governments’ fear that the US government can reach company-managed data at will.”

Yahoo also clashed with the US government, announcing in September that it would be slapped with a weekly fine of $7.5m by a US court, if it failed to comply with an NSA surveillance scheme, giving the agency access to the online activity of millions of internet users, regardless of their nationality.

From the tech coalition, Larry Page, chief executive of Google, said: “The security of users’ data is critical, which is why we’ve invested so much in encryption and fight for transparency around government requests for information.

“This is undermined by the apparent wholesale collection of data, in secret and without independent oversight, by many governments around the world. It’s time for reform and we urge the US government to lead the way.”

Dick Costolo, chief executive of Twitter, added: “Twitter is committed to defending and protecting the voice of our users. Unchecked, undisclosed government surveillance inhibits the free flow of information and restricts their voice.

“The principles we advance today would reform the current system to appropriately balance the needs of security and privacy while safeguarding the essential human right of free expression.”

The coalition first urged the Obama administration to protect internet privacy in December 2013. This resulted in the creation of the USA Freedom Act.

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