Major Tech Companies Call for Greater Digital Due Process in Government Surveillance

AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo have issued an open letter to Washington calling on politicians to reform government surveillance worldwide.

The organizations have outlined five principles that they believe encapsulate and are consistent with “global norms of free expression and privacy” and “the goals of ensuring that government law enforcement and intelligence efforts are rule-bound, narrowly tailored, transparent, and subject to oversight”.

The principles are:

1. Limiting Governments’ Authority to Collect Users’ Information. No bulk downloads of information. Codification of limitations on the ability to compel service providers to disclose data. Limiting surveillance to specific, known users for lawful purposes.

2. Oversight and Accountability. Executive powers to be subject to strong checks and balances and subject to review by independent courts and an adversarial process. Rulings of law should be made public in a timely manner.

3. Transparency About Government Demands. Companies should be able to publish the number and nature of government demands and governments should do so as well.

4. Respecting the Free Flow of Information. Data flow across borders should not be inhibited and service providers should not be required to locate infrastructure within a country.

5. Avoiding Conflicts Among Governments. Mutual legal assistance treaties to permit obtaining data across borders should be robust, principled and transparent and governments should resolve conflicts between their laws.

The Reform Government Surveillance website is here. Microsoft’s General Counsel, Brad Smith, has a blog post here.