President Barack Obama has said that he will propose “some self-restraint” to the National Security Agency (NSA) in order to rein in rampant snooping, but said that it does a very good job about not engaging in domestic surveillance.
Speaking to MSNBC’s Hardball last week, Obama defended the intelligence agency, saying that it does a good job in not reading people’s emails and not listening to the contents of their phone calls, but said that internationally it is “more aggressive” and it “not constrained by laws”..
He also said that he was proposing “some self-restraint on the NSA” in order to give people more confidence”. According to Sophos Naked Security, the comments followed news that the NSA is tracking hundreds of millions of mobile phone locations worldwide, feeding a massive database full of people’s location and relationship data at the rate of nearly five billion records every day.
Also following revelations about the agency spying on their traffic and user activities, web giants Apple. Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, LinkedIn, Google and Microsoft have formed the Global Government Surveillance Reform group.
In its mission statement, it said that it is “time for the world’s governments to address the practices and laws regulating government surveillance of individuals and access to their information”, saying that while they understand that steps need to be taken to protect citizens’ safety and security, current laws and practices need to be reformed.
The eight companies called on Governments to endorse the following principles and enact reforms that would put these principles into action: limiting Governments’ authority to collect users’ information; oversight and accountability so collection is done under a clear legal framework in which executive powers are subject to strong checks and balances; transparency about Government demands; respecting the free flow of information; and avoiding conflicts among Governments.
In an open letter published on the website, it said that the summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide as “the balance in many countries has tipped too far in favour of the state and away from the rights of the individual”.
It said: “For our part, we are focused on keeping users’ data secure — deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorised 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.”