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Tuesday, 10 December 2013 12:06

Top eight technology companies lobby on spying

Written by Nick Farrell



Oi Obama, leave our tech alone!

Eight of the nation’s largest technology companies sent the lobbying boys around to President Barrack Obama’s place in a bid to get him to call off his surveillance hounds. They face an uphill battle. US officials are confident that the American people are too busy watching reality TV cake icing programmes to care about surveillance. If anyone objects, they can be silenced by stories about how terrorists or paedophiles are going to eat their rather overweight children.

However, the tech companies are uncommonly unified. Google and Microsoft are working with Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yahoo, AOL and Twitter. If you put that lot in a room together, they would normally be calling each other names. In this case, they are working together and pooling their lobbying dosh so they might be able to change someone’s mind.

In a letter to U.S. leaders published in several newspapers, the coalition calls for an end to bulk collection of user information and for the enactment of significant new protections when courts consider specific surveillance requests.

“We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide,” the letter says. “The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish.”

The proposals include a call for strong judicial oversight and an adversarial process for surveillance requests, including at the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. So far, the US has only seen a backlash against its antics in Europe and in Brazil, but local voters seem rather calm about it. Many of do not actually know where Europe and Brazil are, which probably helps.

Nick Farrell

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