updated 09:59 am EST, Mon December 9, 2013
Agents infiltrate World of Warcraft
Eight tech giants, including industry competitors Apple, Google and Microsoft, have joined forces to demand reforms to the US government's surveillance tactics. In an open letter sent to President Barack Obama and members of Congress, the companies argue that current surveillance practices, as detailed in ongoing leaks from former National Security Agency staffer Edward Snowden, have created an imbalance "too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual-rights that are enshrined in our Constitution."
The group calls for surveillance to be limited to specific individuals, with data obtained through a "clear legal framework" rather than bulk data collection. They also call for more oversight and accountability, along with improved transparency to give the public a better idea of the scope of surveillance programs.
"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 list of participants also includes AOL, LinkedIn, Twitter and Yahoo. Many of the companies have already called for such reforms while promising to harden their own servers with additional layers of encryption, however the open letter and associated ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com website appear to represent a broader collective pushback from leaders in the tech industry.
"Consistent with established global norms of free expression and privacy and with the goals of ensuring that government law enforcement and intelligence efforts are rule-bound, narrowly tailored, transparent, and subject to oversight, we hereby call on governments to endorse the following principles and enact reforms that would put these principles into action," the letter concludes.
Leaks surrounding US and UK intelligence agencies have yet to stop flowing. One of the latest revelations, posted by the The Guardian, suggests agents have infiltrated World of Warcraft and Second Life, monitoring player communications and attempting to recruit informants. The online role-playing games have reportedly been targeted out of a fear that terrorists may be using the virtual worlds to secretly communicate.
The White House has yet to formally respond to the open letter or comment on the latest leaks.