Silicon Valley To Congress: Pass Real NSA Reform Now

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Nothing unites foes like a common enemy, and the tech world has found theirs.

One year after Edward Snowden's leak of National Security Agency documents, tech titans Tim Cook, Marissa Mayer, Larry Page and Mark Zucherburg, among others, sent the Senate a co-authored letter requesting a tougher version of the bill that would reform the NSA.

The USA Freedom Act, which was proposed as a way to limit some of the government's broad data-collection programs, has already passed in the House of Representatives, minus critical provisions from initial proposals. The nine tech company bosses who authored the June 5 letter asked that the Senate reject this watered-down version of the bill in favor of one that upholds its original intentions for reform.

The bill's current version, according to these tech companies, "could permit bulk collection of Internet 'metadata' (e.g. who you email and who emails you), something that the Administration and Congress said they intended to end." The letter also asked the Senate to pass a version of the bill which will allow tech companies to better inform customers about what kinds of consumer data the government is requesting.

The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing on the bill Thursday afternoon. According to CNET's congressional sources, "the Senate will try to restore some of the stronger provisions that were removed as a result of lobbying by the Obama administration."

You can read the letter in its entirety, below:

Dear Members of the Senate:
It’s been a year since the first headlines alleging the extent of government surveillance on the Internet.

We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But the balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish, and it must change.

Over the last year many of our companies have taken important steps, including further strengthening the security of our services and taking action to increase transparency. But the government needs to do more.

In the next few weeks, the Senate has the opportunity to demonstrate leadership and pass a version of the USA Freedom Act that would help restore the confidence of Internet users here and around the world, while keeping citizens safe.

Unfortunately, the version that just passed the House of Representatives could permit bulk collection of Internet "metadata" (e.g. who you email and who emails you), something that the Administration and Congress said they intended to end. Moreover, while the House bill permits some transparency, it is critical to our customers that the bill allow companies to provide even greater detail about the number and type of government requests they receive for customer information.

It is in the best interest of the United States to resolve these issues. Confidence in the Internet, both in the U.S. and internationally, has been badly damaged over the last year. It is time for action. As the Senate takes up this important decision, we urge you to ensure that U.S. surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent, and subject to independent oversight.

Signed,

Tim Armstrong, AOL
Drew Houston, Dropbox
Larry Page, Google
Tim Cook, Apple
Marissa Mayer, Yahoo!
Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn
Dick Costolo, Twitter
Satya Nadella, Microsoft
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook

The nine tech companies that published the letter -- Apple, Google, Yahoo, Dropbox, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Aol (parent company of The Huffington Post) -- are part of a coalition known as Reform Government Surveillance. Their letter was sent on the same day as the Reset the Net protest, a day of action supported by companies hoping to highlight the issue of online privacy in the wake of the Snowden leaks.

[Hat tip, TechCrunch]

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