It’s time to reform government surveillance, so say the internet’s tech giants. Following the stream of NSA spying revelations from The Guardian; AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo have joined forces to urge Barack Obama and the US Congress to tighten the laws regarding spying on individuals. In an open letter released today, they state:

‘We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide. 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. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for a change.

‘For our part, we are focused on keeping users’ data secure — deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized surveillance on our networks and by pushing back on government requests to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope.

‘We urge the US to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight. To see the full set of principles we support, visit ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com’

The giant online firms complaining of intrusion on personal data is laughable. Nearly all of the companies above are very happy to mine personal data to make money — they don’t like the government beating them at their own game. Jamie Bartlett examines how these ‘little brothers’ are spying on us in this week’s Spectator:

‘What may seem innocuous, even worthless information — shopping, musical preferences, holiday destinations — is seized on by the digital scavengers who sift through cyberspace looking for information they can sell: a mobile phone number, a private email address. The more respectable data-accumulating companies — Facebook, Google, Amazon — already have all that’

‘…one of the reasons firms like Amazon and Google have grown so huge is that they deliver services which billions of us want. The majority of Brits now use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or another social media account — none of which charge us a penny. As the saying goes: if you’re not paying, you’re the product.’

You can read the full text of Jamie’s cover piece here.

Tags: Data, Google, Guardian, NSA, spying, UK politics