Apple has officially added its company name to an open letter signed by several major tech companies which seek permission to become more transparent about information requests they receive from the government.
While much of the public has been bashing the U.S. government regarding its surveillance programs, several tech companies have felt some of this public outrage too for providing the government with information. While these companies aren’t allowed to divulge what information it gives the government, they want this rule changed so that users know just what info is being given out and how often.
The letter also suggests that more accountability be brought in to these surveillance programs, so that they are less abused. Here’s the full letter which was sent from Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL to sponsors of the USA Freedom Act.
Dear Messrs. Chairman, Ranking Members and Members:
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.
Recent disclosures regarding surveillance activity raise important concerns both in the United States and abroad. The volume and complexity of the information that has been disclosed in recent months has created significant confusion here and around the world, making it more difficult to identify appropriate policy prescriptions. Our companies have consistently made clear that we only respond to legal demands for customer and user information that are targeted and specific. Allowing companies to be transparent about the number and nature of requests will help the public better understand the facts about the government’s authority to compel technology companies to disclose user data and how technology companies respond to the targeted legal demands we receive. Transparency in this regard will also help to counter erroneous reports that we permit intelligence agencies “direct access” to our companies’ servers or that we are participants in a bulk Internet records collection program.
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.
We also continue to encourage the Administration to increase its transparency efforts and allow us to release more information about the number and types of requests that we receive, so that the public debate on these issues can be informed by facts about how these programs operate. We urge the Administration to work with Congress in addressing these critical reforms that would provide much needed transparency and help rebuild the trust of Internet users around the world.
We look forward to working with you, the co-sponsors of your bills, and other members on legislation that takes into account the need of governments to keep individuals around the world safe as well as the legitimate privacy interests of our users around the world.