Sometimes, it takes a common foe to turn enemies, especially frenemies, into allies. Such seems to be the case here as Google, Microsoft, and Apple join with other tech giants in the Reform Government Surveillance group that seeks to limit the currently boundless government surveillance.
The companies in this coalition, which also includes the likes of Facebook, Yahoo!, and Twitter, have been, in a way, attacked on all sides. On one hand, they themselves have been targets of the US government’s aggressive information gathering. But on the other hand, they have also been lambasted by users and privacy groups for their complicity in such operations. Now they want to set their foot down and give governments, not the the US’, a piece of their mind and some words of advice.
The coalition proposes five principles, which, in theory, are rather common sense. But as they say, common sense is not really that common. Aside from putting sensible limits on government surveillance and imposing some form of checks and balance, the group makes some suggestions that are particular to information technology. The first proposes that governments should allow companies to inform the public about government demands for information. Secondly, governments should not require service providers, particularly those related to Internet services, to host their infrastructure locally just so that the government can have legal grounds to immediately demand access to data.
While the principles invoked here can apply to any country’s government, being American businesses, the coalition does make a special case out of the US, with an open letter to Washington. It remains to be seen if this coalition will be strong and influential enough to effect a lasting change in the current political situation or if it will simply be lost with the many voices that are being ignored.