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Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Yahoo Form Alliance Against NSA 293

mrspoonsi writes "BBC reports: Leading global technology firms have called for 'wide-scale changes' to US government surveillance. Eight firms, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Yahoo, have formed an alliance called Reform Government Surveillance group. The group has written a letter to the US President and Congress arguing that current surveillance practice 'undermines the freedom' of people. It comes after recent leaks detailed the extent of surveillance programs. '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 group said in an open letter published on its website."
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Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Yahoo Form Alliance Against NSA

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  • Yeah (Score:5, Informative)

    by GroeFaZ ( 850443 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:19AM (#45639519)
    And if that fails, at least give us a standardized interface to share our data, for saving costs.
    • Re:Yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:22AM (#45639561)

      Surprisingly enough, I think this may be fairly serious. The big US Internet business are becoming increasingly scared that the spectre of NSA mass data-gathering is going to shut them out of markets outside the US.

      • Re:Yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:30AM (#45639649)

        I'm amazed the foreign governments even consider ising an americal based OS (at any time really, but most certainly now) for anything that requires any level of security while also being internet connected. Really, the same goes for most software. It just seems like asking to be pwned.

        • by tsa ( 15680 )

          There aren't many alternatives. And no, Linux is not always an alternative.

          • Re:Yeah (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:58AM (#45639999)

            Linux is always an alternative.

            • Linux is always an alternative.

              That's what the NSA wants you to believe.

        • Sometime in the past, I believe the government of China wanted the source code for windows 98, which they did not get ( at least that's how I recall it ). They were worries about some sort of plugin that was available to the US government that could capture and transmit whatever was happening. Someone de-compiled the code and did discover that there was some sort of plugin spot for such a thing ...

      • I see this on a daily basis. My company is offering a SaaS version of our software on Amazon EC2, and we're frequently being asked for a hosting alternative outside of the US. The funny thing is, most of the time it's US organizations asking for the overseas hosting.
      • This is, in fact, pretty explicit on the website:

        “People won’t use technology they don’t trust. Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it.”
        —Brad Smith, General Counsel and Executive Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft

    • Re:Yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:24AM (#45639575)

      question: do these companies care about US or THEIR PROFITS (due to people turning away from their free online services)?

      I'll give you one guess which of those it is.

      in fact, those companies KNEW about the spying (they were asked by the gov, many many times, to reveal info about their users) but only NOW do they *act* like they care about us.

      just an excuse to try to make themselves look good and stand along the side of citizens in what they perceive as an alignment.

      but its all bullshit. those companies do not care one whit about our privacy. they DO care about a mass exodus away from their services to offshore ones and the fact that 'the cloud' is now seen as something to be avoided.

      • Re:Yeah (Score:4, Informative)

        by robinsonne ( 952701 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:33AM (#45639685)
        Of course they care about profits! In this instance though, it might just work to our advantage. These are companies with a LOT of money, and in politics money is far more important than than anything else. These companies actually have the money and clout to make anything at all change.

        You really think the voters have a chance to make their voices heard?
        • by tsa ( 15680 )

          Hasn't it been long so that in the US big companies determine the political course and the 4-yearly elections are a way to make the citizens have the impression that they have an influence?

      • Re:Yeah (Score:4, Interesting)

        by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:38AM (#45639761) Homepage Journal

        Is a bit different than that. They are complaining now because the revelation of this is making their paid users to stop using their services. They may or may not be worried about their users privacy, but for sure they are worried about their profits.

        In the other hand, tif well they knew the cut of the cake they were getting, they didn't know about all the other companies into the same and how wide and deep were this. Also, the revelation on how the NSA infiltrated their internal network [] without their knowledge or consent could had raised some alarms.

        In any case, if the NSA head can lie to the congress [] without consequences after that being found out, why can't they tell all of them that it is over while keep doing it (and keeping the backdoors in their internal networks to keep doing the dirty work) or force them in a way or another to tell the world that all is over when is not, or even plant a fake whiteblower that confirms that the NSA stopped their programs ? By now trust is deeply broken in all that surrounds the NSA, if tomorrow they say that 2+2=4 you should bet that they are doing math in base 3.

        • Re:Yeah (Score:5, Interesting)

          by bmajik ( 96670 ) <> on Monday December 09, 2013 @05:20PM (#45643481) Homepage Journal

          I think Snowden changed the game on this

          Before the Snowden revelation, it wasn't widely accepted that the government was reading everything anybody ever wrote. For _one_ of these companies to come forward to complain was like the prisoners dilemma. There was no guarantee that other players would follow suit, so for GOOG to come out and say "The NSA is spying on you and we can't stop them" puts GOOG at a competitive disadvantage. Furthermore, all of this stuff was secret; not to be disclosed publicly, etc. Companies weren't sure how much teeth there were in those rules, so were further hesitant to talk much about it.

          Post Snowden, its all different. Now its an open secret that this happens, and it happens to everyone. Now there's no posturing or competitive advantage to be exploited; everyone is in the same boat. This is a populist issue and once one company made noise about sticking it to the NSA, the rest were going to have to follow.

          The other thing that has changed is that Snowden and Lavabit have both gone public. The public has spoken. We now have proof of what kind of stuff the Feds will do and how far they'll go to keep it quiet. The people who leaked this stuff survived.

          The government might be able to sue Yahoo or Lavabit or any of them individually, but it cannot sue the entire tech industry.. not right now.

      • Re:Yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

        by JDG1980 ( 2438906 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:40AM (#45639793)

        question: do these companies care about US or THEIR PROFITS (due to people turning away from their free online services)?

        Of course they are primarily concerned about their profits (especially about the potential loss of business from non-US customers, who under current NSA doctrine apparently have no right to privacy at all). But in this case, the companies are right on the merits. Their interests and the interests of the general public are, on this particular issue, aligned.

        Civil liberties battles are hard enough under the best of circumstances. You take your allies where you can find them.

        • Re:Yeah (Score:5, Informative)

          by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:45AM (#45639849)

          no, I won't 'take my allies where I can find them'. they can too easily shift back to being against me. they are NOT my alies, just enemies of my enemy. haven't you been paying attention the last, say, 20 years or so?

          • "Enemy of my enemy" worked to win the WW2. Just saying.

            In this particular case, you're not required to do anything to support the corporations in question. On the other hand, if, say, you're writing your Congressman to demand some action about NSA, attaching a copy of this letter will help you make your case.

      • In fact, those companies KNEW about the spying (they were asked by the gov, many many times, to reveal info about their users)

        Your parenthetical is presented as support for your assertion, but it isn't. The fact that they were asked many times, whether via lawful orders or otherwise, indicates nothing about whether or not they knew of secret data gathering by the NSA. They've claimed in public statements that they didn't know about it. Most have also claimed that they didn't comply with any requests except where they were obligated by law. I see no evidence to refute either claim. Do you? If so, can you point it out?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:19AM (#45639523)

    What's their nuclear option? What's their post-nuclear strategy? It's doubtful the NSA is going to change their ways.

    • What's their nuclear option? What's their post-nuclear strategy? It's doubtful the NSA is going to change their ways.

      In addition to being spied upon by the NSA, these companies must receive thousands of subpoenas for information. They could be a little less responsive to each one of these in many ways (while still remaining within the law). It would not impact the NSA, but would impact the government.

  • While I'm sure the talk about the NSA being able to listen in on their customers will be bad for business, I wonder what they'll do if people start to really take online privacy seriously. That would really cut to the core of their businesses, so perhaps they're really trying to clamp down on it before people start to think about it even more than they already have been.
  • by rizole ( 666389 ) <> on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:21AM (#45639547)

    current surveillance practice 'undermines the freedom' of people.

    • Facebook isn't on the list at least, that would be just too ironic.
      • Headline: "Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft..."

      • Facebook isn't on the list at least, that would be just too ironic.

        Eight firms, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Yahoo

        Well, that's embarassing.

    • by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @12:00PM (#45640025)

      current surveillance practice 'undermines the freedom' of people.

      I can choose not to use Google (yes, I can even choose to disable their trackers on websites, like, say Slashdot). I can't choose not to have the NSA snoop on email. So it's more like the merchants criticizing the taxmen. One will happily take your freedoms if you give it to them, the other will take your freedoms willing or not.

  • by mrspoonsi ( 2955715 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:22AM (#45639559)
    They really mean "undermines our companies bottom line".

    Google is happy to collect all the information it can get its hands on (and get away with), I am sure the others are equally as complicit.
  • by rodrigoandrade ( 713371 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:25AM (#45639599)
    This is nothing but a PR stunt by these firms to save face, since they all happily collaborated with NSA's dirty practices in exchange of dough and political favors.

    I say fuck 'em all!!
    • by wickerprints ( 1094741 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:59AM (#45640019)

      Policy-wise, nothing really gets done in the US without the implicit consent of corporate power. This applies even to things like spying. The government is run by the wealthy elite and therefore the policies are designed to favor their interests. Where those interests may conflict, it is usually the entity with the greater influence or better connections that gets their way.

      This latter point is where we stand with regard to warrantless domestic surveillance of US citizens by the NSA. The eight companies that have "allied" against this practice, albeit influential as a group, have been for the most part self-interested competitors, and many of them make no attempt to hide the fact that they run a business model that is predicated upon mining personal data from its users in order to sell advertising (Google and Facebook being the most notable examples).

      However, that is not to say that they actively or "happily" collaborated with the NSA. The legal requirements, as far as we have been apprised of them, force their cooperation. It is not logical to assume that just because their business involves exploiting their users, that they would not object to NSA surveillance, because the latter does have a deleterious effect on the former. If users suddenly feel paranoid because they think these companies are (willingly or unwillingly) handing over their personal information to the government, then they would be more reluctant to share that data by posting it online. The fear of surveillance brings about increased awareness of the need for protecting one's privacy, which of course is NOT what these companies want. That is the essential argument behind their opposition.

      In any case, these companies are merely the repositories for end-user information. The real culprits here, the ones who ARE happily handing over information to the government, are the telecommunications companies, notably AT&T. They are the ones who let the NSA install listening devices on their networks. And you will note that these companies have NOT banded together to protest this illegal surveillance program. They don't see any need to, because they have too much power (since the entire internet is reliant on them) and, unlike Google and Facebook, they have no incentive to protect the data that flows through their networks. If a subscriber doesn't want to share personal information about themselves to a social network, they can opt out of doing so, and the result is a loss of valuable data for the company that operates that network. But it is MUCH harder to completely forgo the internet entirely, which is what you would have to do in order to avoid having AT&T send your data to the NSA. And AT&T doesn't make their money off selling your personal information to advertisers. They make it off your basic need for connectivity.

  • PR stunt (Score:4, Informative)

    by hochl ( 759409 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:29AM (#45639633)
    They will encrypt all their traffic and hard drives but leave open the surveillance API on their running servers to access the data. Or they will share the encryption keys. "All data will be encrypted to protect customers" is nothing more but a PR stunt!
  • by Daemonik ( 171801 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:30AM (#45639639) Homepage
    Not one of those companies gives a damn about your privacy. They all collect and data-mine more information about you than the NSA does, it's why the NSA tapped them to begin with. They are only doing this to a) prevent or at least minimize foreign countries using the privacy scandal to fund competition against them; b) prevent or at least minimize foreign countries from penalizing them legally; and c) for the slight bit of positive marketing with people who believe they care.
  • by ClassicASP ( 1791116 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:30AM (#45639651)
    We probably won't hear a word about these folks in public TV due to well orchestrated govt control, which makes it less obvious to the public. I say: all seven of these should stand together united with the same message and video on their homepages. That'll force their way into public television networks.
    • I dunno about TV, but I learned about this because it was a front-page story on the New York Times. It's not like the mainstream press isn't covering this.

      • More people watch TV than read the New York Times.

        Not necessarily news programming, but if it got a 60 second spot during Dancing with the Stars, people might notice.

  • what bullshit! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Connie_Lingus ( 317691 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:30AM (#45639659) Homepage

    why, in heaven's name, would ANYONE believe this nonsense after all the lying that these corps. and agencies have been stuffing up our butts?

    talk about astroturf on a grand scale...more like astroturd.

    • Re:what bullshit! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:48AM (#45639885)

      one good thing to come from the NSA scandal is that people are finally realizing they can't trust:

      - the government (the data collectors and manipulators, at least)

      - big business

      and in a way, its a KIND of progress! its a start. to at least admit there is a problem, that's good progress.

      however, step 2 is a bit harder to accomplish...

      • If you don't trust the government (fed/state/local), and you don't trust big business, who do you trust? Where does this loss of trust end? Because if you don't trust big business, then why would you trust small business? And if you don't trust government in any form, then why would you trust any government, or literally anyone else? And if your own family betrays you, then what? See, I don't understand this active deconstruction of trust. At some point it has to end, or you end up isolated, alone, paranoid
  • Sounds Legit... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by They'reComingToTakeM ( 1091657 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:31AM (#45639663)
    Messrs Pot, Pot, Pot, Pot, Pot, Pot, Pot, & Pot - Meet Agent Black.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Wouldn't they be meeting agent kettle?

    • by N1AK ( 864906 )
      When the US government gives me the option to signup to being spied on, explains in its terms what it will do with the info etc then I'll be the first to agree it's the same thing. But they aren't; so let's stop with the stupid strawman attacks on these companies and welcome anything they do, no matter how cynical the reasons, to push the government to leave us the fuck alone.
  • by MonkeyDancer ( 797523 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:33AM (#45639697)

    Are they nuts? My Senator says "these tools are required to intercept and obstruct terrorism". He goes on to say that "we must never allow the terrorists to alter the freedoms that define our country and make us the greatest nation in the world". If we stop these programs then the terrorists win!

  • Since when have any of these companies ever cared a whit or a bit for their customer's privacy? Something clearly does not add up here. Must be a publicity stunt and nothing more.

  • AOL (Score:3, Insightful)

    by simpz ( 978228 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:39AM (#45639773)
    "Eight leading Internet firms, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Yahoo, have formed an alliance called Reform Government Surveillance group."

    As someone else pointed out "Seven leading Internet firms" and AOL

    Who's still using AOL , or is still paying for it and actually uses their service. I'm sure I read somewhere that a large percentage of their users are unaware that they no longer needed their AOL subscription to get online via broadband?
    • You'd be surprised (or maybe not) how many people still pay to keep the e-mail they've had for going on 2 decades now.

  • by Luthair ( 847766 )
    Oh hey guys, we still exist!
  • by Jupix ( 916634 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:40AM (#45639789)

    Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Yahoo, have formed an alliance called Reform Government Surveillance group.

    "Government surveillance"? At least the NSA isn't reading my stuff to figure out how to best sell me things...

    So what about corporate surveillance? I'm a lot more worried about the snooping being done in this group of corporations.

    Actually, clearly I'm not very worried about that either, since I keep using Windows, Google, Facebook etc.

  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:48AM (#45639877)

    He who COUNTS the votes decides everything. Good luck guys. Let us know how it works out for you.

  • by sl4shd0rk ( 755837 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:56AM (#45639995)

    FTFA: "rights to provide details of any such future data requests to their users"

    This is the only substance in TFA talking about what they "alliance" wants. All that means to me is there will be another EULA full of word-spin everyone will simply click through because it's bullshit.

    Until there is a service where you physically posses your encryption key, this is all the same clear-text data laying on disk, wrapped in SSL when it's moving. Still subject to eveasdropping.

  • The submitter seems to have misspelled "With".
  • But I think it is pretty obvious that this is more about restoring their brand images than anything else. I don't doubt that they are geniunely miffed about some of the NSA's shennanigans, such as having their private wan connections tapped, but going on about the 'Rights of the individual' seems kind of ludicrous when the reason the government gets information from them in the first place is because they already have it neatly packaged up for the taking. In a nutshell they say "This needs to change becau
  • and now the ugly side is revealed to all, and it is must more uglier than anyone ever imagined
  • My rifle and my service to said alliance, and the principles by which it stands. Of internet freedom, liberty, justice and the American way. In support of the Constitution and the First Amendment.

    • By that, I mean if they start arresting their CEOs and imprisoning. I'm game for breaking them out. But I wager most prisons use modern electronic locks. So it's more than likely someone will just hack the prison system so they can walk out.

      But seriously, NSA, you are dangerously close to being an enemy of the Constitution.

  • The real issue here isn't what specific thing NSA is or is not doing at a given moment. The issue is that they have been seen to act outside the law, which means all bets are off. There is no reason whatsoever, and will never be any reason, to believe any assurances that they might give in the future that "we've stopped doing X,Y,Z". If the NSA was a person, we'd fire him/her, probably fine and jail him/her, and revoke his/her security clearance and make it impossible for him/her to work in any position of
  • I am just a U.S. Citizen. I no longer have a say in what my government does, so I better prop up any company that might help they unConstitutional NSA, which operates with no checks and balances, with the taxpayers blank anti-terrorism check.

  • government. The NSA does what those corporations do. Those corporations are not happy that their own government is duplicating their efforts. They are unhappy because the miniscule taxes they pay are being used to do the same things they are doing at their own expense. They want their tax money to be used for other things, things that they themselves can't do (yet), such as invading other countries, firing missiles from drones, shipping undesirables off to third countries to be tortured, etc.

    I suggest t

  • Great PR (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zamphatta ( 1760346 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @02:14PM (#45641489) Homepage
    Fantastic PR here, but I'll wait and see if anything really comes of it. Sorry to say, I'm very skeptical that this is anything more than good press for these companies. At best, I think it's got very little to do with the 'freedom of the people' and a whole lot to do with the companies fear that the people aren't trusting them anymore. That hits the wallet. I'm sure that group of tech companies has enough cash to throw at Washington to get something done if they want to, but I'm not sure they want to. So like I said, I'll wait and see if anything really comes of this before I get my hopes up.
  • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @03:14PM (#45642057) Journal

    Oh look, the corporations I don't like are fighting the government I don't like. It's like Christmas had sex with my birthday!

  • by MtViewGuy ( 197597 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @10:29PM (#45646783)

    Here's the problem: the REAL people that should be standing up to NSA snooping are the Level 1 Internet backbone providers: AT&T, Level 3, Sprint and Verizon. Because the NSA directly tapped into the backbone, the spy agency don't need access to the servers at AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft and Yahoo! to get all the information they need. Indeed, I've read that NSA already has special rooms inside AT&T and Verizon operations to directly tap into the backbone--and this known for many years.

  • by AndyCanfield ( 700565 ) <> on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:41PM (#45647255) Homepage

    The NSA intrusion is already affecting U.S. business. My e-mail is at, which answers to the KGB, not the NSA. I use IxQuick, not Google. My web site is in Thailand. Any company today who creates a web site hosted in the USA is just stupid. There are perfectly competant hosting services outside the NSA's backyard.

    I sent an e-mail supporting these eight companies regarding their hopes to limit the Feddie spooks. Yes, of course it is stockholder's equity that is being destroyed. But that makes it no less sincere. If the US can't hold back the NSA then NOBODY will use Of course, it is ironic that Google's whole business plan is to know eveything about you. I don't want ANYBODY to know everything about me; I stopped using Google a year before Edward Snowden.

    Ahah! There was that name! "Edward Snowden". This post will make it to the bowels of the NSA database. Creepy?

    The weird part is that this problem was solved over two hundred years ago. It's called a "search warrant". You want to read my e-mails, go get a search warrant. Otherwise, keep your fingers out of my stuff.

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