Denials Are Not Enough

The Guardian and The Washington Post recently published slides that indicate that the US government’s National Security Agency (NSA) is engaged in mass surveillance of users around the world through a program called PRISM. They report that the NSA is extracting audio, video, photographs, emails, documents, and connection logs from nine leading internet companies: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple.

These major internet companies have denied any knowledge of the PRISM program. But it’s still difficult to square their denials with the leaked slides and the US government’s admission that PRISM exists and is capturing data from users all over world.

The time is now for global users of US internet companies to demand answers, and for those companies to join them in seeking more transparency and limits to government surveillance of their international and US users.

This issue affects users of these services all over the globe: The nine internet companies allegedly linked to the PRISM program have hundreds of millions of users worldwide. If Silicon Valley’s internet giants have been cooperating with the US government to help collect massive and detailed dossiers on internet users both within and outside the US, this constitutes a tremendous breach of trust. Even if they have acted only subject to court orders, the scope of government access to their customers’ information appears unprecedented.

Mass surveillance is a violation of universal rights. If internet companies want to protect their names and maintain the trust of their users worldwide, their CEOs must demand public answers from the US government.

Denials are not enough. The CEOs must call for an accounting of America's secret spying programs.

We've already seen companies start to take a stand. Mozilla came out for privacy as a core partner of StopWatching.Us, while two companies accused of involvement in the program – Google and Facebook – have asked for the ability to disclose more about national security requests.

When the government was caught spying on American citizens in the 1960s and 70s, the US Congress created a special committee to investigate that resulted in legal reforms ensuring at least some judicial oversight of surveillance programs. But in recent years the global scope of the surveillance has expanded and oversight has been reduced.

Now it’s time for another reckoning: Internet companies must join the call for the US Congress to act in a similar fashion and create a committee to uncover the truth about these alarming allegations.

Use the form to the right to join us in calling on the CEOs of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple to condemn global surveillance and demand that the US Congress initiate meaningful, rights-respecting reforms.

This is a joint campaign between Access and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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To the CEOs of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple:


No doubt you are aware of recent allegations regarding your company’s involvement in the US government’s PRISM surveillance program. As a user of your products, I am deeply concerned to learn that your company may be working with, or acquiescing to, the US government in building detailed dossiers on your users.

Your public statement of denial is a good first step, but in order to win back the trust of your users worldwide, denials are not enough. If your company wants to clear its name, you must call for a full public accounting of America’s secret spying programs.

When the government was caught spying on American citizens in the 1960s and 70s, Congress created a special committee to investigate that resulted in legal reforms that ensured at least some judicial oversight of surveillance programs. But in recent years the scope of the surveillance has expanded and oversight has been reduced.

We need for you to join the call for Congress to act in a similar fashion by creating a committee to conduct a full and public investigation into these abuses; by enacting strong legislation to curb said abuses; and by reining in the Executive Branch. These actions are essentialfor you to protect all of your users’ communications, wherever they reside.

Now is the chance to be at the forefront of this call to action and set the record straight.  


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