Microsoft, Google & friends urge passage of USA Freedom Act

In an open letter to the U.S. Senate, nine tech heavyweights are imploring the body to pass the USA Freedom Act, which would curb much of the massive data collection by the NSA and other agencies. The activities were originally brought to light by Edward Snowden.

According to the letter:

The legislation prevents the bulk collection of internet metadata under various authorities. The bill also allows for transparency about government demands for user information from technology companies and assures that the appropriate oversight and accountability mechanisms are in place.

The letter was signed by [company]Apple[/company], [company]AOL[/company], [company]Dropbox[/company], [company]Evernote[/company], [company]Facebook[/company], [company]Google[/company], [company]LinkedIn[/company], [company]Microsoft[/company], [company]Twitter[/company] and [company]Yahoo[/company]

The fate of that bill, introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), is very much up in the air given Republican gains in the midterm elections. As Gigaom’s Jeff Roberts has pointed out, many Republicans, citing national security concerns, object to data gathering reforms.

One thing has changed over the past year is that tech companies are disclosing more about the requests they’re getting from the government. But those demands have grown. In September, Google reported that demand for user data in U.S. criminal inquiries rose 19 percent in the first half of 2014 compared to the previous six months. The total increase from a six-month period in 2009, when Google started tracking this information, was 250 percent.

The U.S. government’s data scooping has put these U.S.-based companies in a tight spot vis-a-vis customers in the U.S. and abroad who don’t relish the idea of a third party snarfing up their data or meta data.  Much of the information gathered relates to people without any links to crime or terrorism.