Google, Facebook and Twitter among top tech firms calling for sweeping reforms to US surveillance

The group, including Microsoft, Google and Apple, say that the balance has tipped "in favour of the state and away from the rights of the individual"

Eight of the world’s leading technology companies have called on the US government to implement sweeping reforms to the country’s surveillance policy and put a halt to the “bulk data collection of Internet communications.”

Aol, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo have formed a coalition in what is the business world’s most concerted public condemnation of government surveillance to date.

“We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens,” writes the US-based group in an open letter published online and in papers this Monday.  “But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide.”

“The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favour 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. It’s time for a change.”

The proposals come after documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the extent to which US and UK agencies spy on citizens worldwide, often without legal oversight.

“Reports about government surveillance have shown there is a real need for greater disclosure and new limits on how governments collect information,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “The US government should take this opportunity to lead this reform effort and make things right.”

The companies have outlined five “reform principles” that they wish the US government to adopt, with a general aim of limiting indiscriminate surveillance and increasing public transparency and accountability.

The firms also make it clear that their commercial interests are at stake, arguing that “the ability of data to flow or be accessed across borders is essential to a robust 21st century global economy” and that users have lost faith in the security of their data.

“Recent revelations about government surveillance activities have shaken the trust of our users and it is time for the United States government to act to restore the confidence of citizens around the world,” said Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer.

“Today we join our colleagues in the tech industry calling on the United States Congress to change surveillance laws in order to ensure transparency and accountability for government actions."

The group's letter and policy reforms can be read in full here.

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