Apple and other leading tech companies support USA Freedom Act to limit NSA powers

Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL have all signed an open letter expressing support for the USA Freedom Act co-sponsored by Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy and Republican Representative Jim Sensenbrenner. The Act, if passed, would outlaw the NSA’s speculative bulk collection of data and allow the companies to be far more transparent about the data they are obliged to make available to the government.

As companies whose services are used by hundreds of millions of people around the world, we welcome the debate about how to protect both national security and privacy interests and we applaud the sponsors of the USA Freedom Act for making an important contribution to this discussion.

The companies had previously complained that gag orders forced them to issue denials that were technically true but misleading. They had asked to be allowed to release more specific figures about the number of demands they receive for personal data.

This letter goes further, in supporting moves to actually limit the powers the government would have to gain access to the data in the first place.

Transparency is a critical first step to an informed public debate, but it is clear that more needs to be done. Our companies believe that government surveillance practices should also be reformed to include substantial enhancements to privacy protections and appropriate oversight and accountability mechanisms for those programs.

In introducing the bill, Senator Leahy said “The government surveillance programs conducted under the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act are far broader than the American people previously understood. Modest transparency and oversight provisions are not enough.”

The Verge reports that Google is tightening the security of its internal networks, and that Twitter has already moved to encrypt direct messages.

Full text of the open letter below.