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Thursday, June 05, 2014, 10:49 am PT (01:49 pm ET)

Apple's Tim Cook & other tech leaders urge US Senate to do more to curb government surveillance

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook and a number of other high-profile tech leaders sent a letter to the U.S. Senate this week, urging them to beef up the proposed USA Freedom Act which would restrict government surveillance of Internet users.

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Cook was joined by Google's Larry Page, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft's Satya Nadella, and Yahoo's Marissa Mayer in signing the letter to the Senate. In it, the CEOs argued that rights have "tipped too far" in favor of governments, and are impeding on individuals' rights.

Specifically, the tech industry has taken issue with the USA Freedom Act that passed the U.S. House of Representatives, which would allow bulk collection of Internet "metadata." With this information, government organizations such as the National Security Agency could determine who users email and who sends them emails.

The tech industry also wants even greater transparency of surveillance than the House bill would provide. The CEOs believe their companies should be allowed to inform customers about the number and type of government requests they receive.

"It is in the best interest of the United States to resolve these issues," the letter reads. "Confidence in the Internet, both in the U.S. and internationally, has been badly damaged over the last year. It is time for action."

Joining Cook and the others were also AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. The consortium first came together in late 2013 to call on the government for substantial reforms to regulation and oversight of surveillance performed by agencies like the NSA.

The full letter issued to the U.S. Senate this week is included 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 legislation, 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.