Apple, Google, Facebook, and Other Web Titans Pen Letter to Obama Demanding Change on Government Surveillance

Major tech firms are lobbying for more user privacy as it pertains to the U.S. government's practice of collecting sensitive data. In an open letter to President Barack Obama and Congress, eight technology companies said there's a need to "reform government surveillance" now that the balance has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from individuals.

"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 companies wrote.

The firms behind the letter include, in alphabetical order, AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter. and Yahoo. Each one agrees that governments should limit surveillance to specific, known users rather than collect data in bulk. The firms also seek permission for more transparency -- specifically, the companies want to be able to publish how many government requests for user data they receive as well as the nature of those requests. At present, that information is considered confidential.

Image Credit: Flickr (Sean MacEntee)

"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," Google chief Larry Page stated on a website calling for change. "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 U.S. government to lead the way."

Former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the U.S. government's PRISM spying program back in June of this year. It was revealed that the government can (and does) snoop all kinds of communications, including instant messages, emails, and more.