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Originally published December 12 2013

Top tech companies invoke Constitution in call for end to NSA surveillance

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) It is astounding to me how little noise has been made by media outlets, public figures and others with a microphone or TV camera over the government's blatant and serial violations of the Fourth Amendment's privacy protections, but that may be changing - and that's a good thing.

Now, eight major tech companies have stood up - finally - to call for an end to blanket government surveillance. The Associated Press reports that the tech companies made their demand in an open letter to President Obama recently, calling for major surveillance reforms, as well as changes to the way the government spies in general:

The companies, which include Google, Facebook and Twitter, said that while they sympathize with national security concerns, recent revelations make it clear that laws should be carefully tailored to balance them against individual rights.

This is their way of saying, "Uncle Sam can conduct his business of defending the country, but he needs to do so in a constitutional manner."

'Oh, we're not routinely spying on you'

"The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual - rights that are enshrined in our Constitution," the companies wrote. "This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It's time for a change."

No, it's past time, but again, this is a good step because, after all, these companies lobby and back political campaigns. They'll certainly not soon back any advocates for blanket surveillance.

The letter comes following disclosure earlier this summer by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed that the nation's premier spy agency has been conducting secret surveillance programs that critics say are a direct violation of, and threat to, Fourth Amendment privacy protections.

Naturally, intelligence officials say the NSA's tactics have disrupted terrorist attacks (with the exception of that nasty little bit of business in Boston earlier this year, despite ample warning signs prior to the attack). Oh, and they assure us their analysts are not "routinely" looking at Americans' electronic communications, cough, cough.

Nevertheless, as the AP reports:

But the technology companies' campaign - aimed at governments across the globe - argues that officials should codify "sensible limitations on their ability to compel service providers to disclose user data" and to ensure that law enforcement and intelligence efforts should be transparent and accountable. In comments attached to the campaign's website, CEOs and senior leaders of the companies also weighed in, making it clear they were personally behind reform.

"Reports about government surveillance have shown there is a real need for greater disclosure and new limits on how governments collect information," said Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook. "The U.S. government should take this opportunity to lead this reform effort and make things right."

Why is it that the words "government" and "reform" are so often in conflict?

Marissa Meyer, the CEO of Yahoo, said the Snowden disclosures has "shaken the trust of our users." And how.

The letter was signed by AOL Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook Inc., Google Inc., LinkedIn Corp., Microsoft Corp., Twitter Inc. and Yahoo! Inc.

Who cares about the motivation?

Opponents of the government's global electronic spying campaign, and they are legion, cautiously gave a modicum of approval, but some of them said the stance held by Silicon Valley likely had more to do with profit than principle.

"It sure would have been nice if the tech companies had been loudly supporting intelligence reform before Snowden's disclosures," Chris Soghoian, a senior analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, told the AP.

And the WikiLeaks site, which helped Snowden get temporary asylum in Russia, said in a tweet that the tech companies were only speaking out against mass surveillance "after seeing profit problems over their complicity in it."

Well, so what? They are in business to make money, and they will make less of it if users can't be guaranteed privacy.

In the Age of Technology, government masterminds have used it to circumvent our laws, our Constitution and our trust. Any effort to restore our protections gets my support.


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