back to article Oi, Obama. Rein your spooks in, demands web giants' alliance

Eight web heavyweights have banded together to call on the US and other governments to rein in indiscriminate surveillance by state security agencies. AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo are asking for a general reform of government surveillance laws and practices because the "balance in many …


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  1. deadlockvictim

    Dear 8 Heavyweights

    If you are honestly so concerned about the privacy of your users (which I don't think you are), why don't you all just not comply with the demands from the NSA and be public about calling the bluff of the US government.

    For many people, you *are* the Internet. If needs be, withdraw your services and see how people react, especially when you directly blame the US Government.

    Or is this Socialism?

    1. David Webb

      Re: Dear 8 Heavyweights

      8HW - We demand you do this!

      Spooks - Umm, okay, but only if "transparent and subject to independent oversight" also applies to your taxes, we reserve the right to alter the law to shut down all loop holes you currently use.

      8HW - We retract our demands, sorry about that

      Spooks - No problem, now, can you post us the private keys you hold?

      1. Jim 59

        Dear Obama and NSA

        AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo would like you to stop datamining my ass, so that they can datamine my ass.

        1. MrDamage Silver badge

          Re: Dear Obama and NSA

          I think its more to do with the fact that they want to charge the NSA for access to your ass, like they do with all of the advertisers.

          Why should the NSA get free access to your ass, when everyone else has to go through the 8 pimps?

          1. Don Jefe

            Re: Dear Obama and NSA

            Any time an individual or corporation provides a product or service to the government, even under court order, the government is required to pay market rates for what it has requested.

            With some things the rate is negotiated beforehand but for other, more nebulous things, like data collection and formatting you can charge the hell out of them. If there is no predefined value for what's being requested you can decide that it will require 20 top-flight engineers to meet the request. They can say 'no' to a dollar amount, but they can't say no to resource allocations, they can't tell you how to run your business.

            It all has to do with when our British oppressors were over here and were seizing property from the Colonists. Government/crown seizure of property or labor without payment is a far, far larger contributing factor than taxes or government representation in our expulsion of the Red Coats.

            My point is that there's never a problem getting federal agencies to pay for what they're wanting. It's one of the few parts of our Constitution that hasn't been mangled beyond reason. If you're a centralized provider you can charge big, big dollars for your services.

    2. RoninRodent

      Re: Dear 8 Heavyweights

      If the requests come with a court order they can't which is the problem. Courts are just rubber-stamping any old request from spook agencies and if the companies refuse to action the requests they will get slapped with heavy fines for every day they do not comply.

      The only solution is to get the governments to rein in the spooks in which I what these 9 are trying for. They also know that is just going to result in a claim they are and a gag order preventing those companies from saying otherwise. It is a token effort at best.

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: Dear 8 Heavyweights

        You can't deny the government what they ask for. Their requests are backed by court order and refusing it just sends people to jail and has the government bring in their own staff to get what they want. It's simply not a smart way to deal with the problem, most people don't want to be martyrs and you're not going to win anyway.

        Fighting heroic battles sounds great, but that's a last ditch move, when you know you're beaten anyway and any punishment you receive for rebelling is no worse than being destroyed. At least somebody will make a movie about you.

        The issue is 100% not related to whatever you think Socialism is. At issue are the boundaries of government mandate. The issue is relevant to any type of government, dictatorship and monarchy, to direct and representational democracies.

        1. Anonymous Brave Guy

          Re: Dear 8 Heavyweights

          "You can't deny the government what they ask for. Their requests are backed by court order and refusing it just sends people to jail and has the government bring in their own staff to get what they want. It's simply not a smart way to deal with the problem, most people don't want to be martyrs and you're not going to win anyway."

          And you sir, have all out forgotten just who pays for the government's campaign donations, I'll give you a clue, its definitely not the public sector.

          Yeah, I am saying that you are dead wrong about government fighting back, you never bite the hand that feeds you.

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Dear 8 Heavyweights

      "...and away from the rights of the individual”.

      The individual in question being Zuckerberg.

    4. Bartholomew

      Re: Dear 8 Heavyweights

      They are only doing this to keep the money rolling in. The sole purpose of companies is to make more money this year than last. And they will fight to block anything that may effect this. None of these companies care about governments spying on anyone, but if they are not seen to care it could effect their bottom line.

      If those 8 companies alone when bankrupt tomorrow, and vanished off the Internet, then the privacy on the Internet would be improved a million fold.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A fascinating opportunity

    This does seem to have opened up the doors to competition - no cloud if it is UK/US/CN/AUS/IS/NZ.... I hope folks make the most of it (admittedly someone who uses dropbox all the time - albeit with host encryption)

    1. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: A fascinating opportunity

      Which works if none of your data crosses the borders of any of those countries at any point in its lifetime. Tracert can give some very interesting results.

      1. Chris Miller

        Re: A fascinating opportunity

        Or if like (e.g.) Belgacom, the national network is pwned by GCHQ.

  3. btrower

    Fox raises defense against another Fox

    Their complaint is that the hens they raise and eat are theirs alone. As one of the chickens in this scenario, I am looking for a solution that does not involve getting eaten.

    It is possible for all of those companies to blind data in such a way that even they cannot see it and hence cannot be induced to turn it over. They don't want to get into that solution because they want to snoop on us themselves.

    We need to put in place protocols that make it impossible for any of them to snoop on us and then force those protocols into use.

    In addition to a technical solution we need a social and political solution that says the use of ill-gotten data is illegitimate. The fact that they can use that data to your disadvantage should be removed. In the case of Law enforcement, I don't care *what* the charge is, if their evidence was obtained pursuant to illegally snooping the case should be tossed.

    At the very least, we need to get joint custody of things such that a single corrupt judge or jurisdiction cannot obtain the data without convincing other custodians who may be more ethical.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fox raises defense against another Fox

      This is fair enough, but one major benefit of gmail is up to date malware and phishing screening, and you can't do that without reading the mail at some point.

      1. btrower

        Re: Fox raises defense against another Fox

        It is, of course, not entirely simple to accomplish the goals I set. However, it *is* possible to allow such processing to occur on the client and/or in a distributed system such that Google never has access to the clear text.

        A lot of the security stuff is understandably difficult. However, difficult to understand does not mean impossible to do. I am not even a security guy as such and I could personally design and build a lot of this stuff.

        Should I be hanging out a shingle?

        1. Don Jefe

          Re: Fox raises defense against another Fox

          It's not so much the level of technical difficulty, it's the cost. Who is going to pay for all that? MS, Google, Yahoo! and the other big providers are chicken and egg problems.

          They got involved in their current capacities early enough to build momentum as well as foundations to build on. Attempting to replicate just the infrastructure of Google is a nearly impossible task now.

          Whoever built the things you're talking about would not be able to grow, they have to at least equal Google in speed, overall performance and product offerings as soon as they opened their doors.. You would need billions and billions of dollars of investor money to do that and nobody is going to pony up that kind of money.

  4. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Oh dear, what a crying shame.

    How odd that anyone would think that the likes of an Obama or a Cameron or a Putin [who is a cool dude spook himself] do not do what spooks want, and as they are told to do.

    Surely no one actually believes that Cameron types are actually in command and control of anything. That is just too ridiculous a notion for more words.

    And yes, that is sad and mad indictment too of the present state of spookery everywhere, given the fact that things are so austere and confrontational.

    But as I sure you be aware, there are things afoot which are causing the status quo real virtual concern for they do not have the intellectual ability or physical facility to deal with it with either IT or media. Such are in many and some cases, NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActive Opportunities which Engage and Empower Exploitation and Export of Zeroday Vulnerabilities with Stealthy Invisible Operational Support ..... Non-Attributable Security Protection.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh dear, what a crying shame.

      I see a hint of sanity creeping into amanfrommars' posts... the first 3 paragraphs actually made sense!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @The Man in Black - Re: Oh dear, what a crying shame.

        the first 3 paragraphs actually made sense!

        Yes. Until the left hand realised what the right hand was doing, and re-asserted control.

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: Oh dear, what a crying shame.

      Of course the politicians will do as they're told. All elected politicians are extremely vulnerable to the 'perfect man' fallacy.

      Since we stopped valuing the martial capabilities and achievements of candidates and turned elections into American Idol competitions where we value their background, presentation and stage performance more than their capabilities as leaders. We seek the 'perfect man' who has done no wrong but willfully ignore that something is terribly, terribly wrong with any Human who has never done wrong.

      By placing himself on such a high pedestal, he can be easily destroyed by the revelation of past indiscretions or less that saintly activities. His entire power base is built on the idea of perfection, to sully that idea, to tarnish that perfect shine, is to completely undermine the foundations of all he is and all he will ever be.

      We've made ourselves vulnerable in all this as well. The people we elect, on the basis of a smile or TV presence, cannot be the voice of the people. They are the voice of those who know their secrets. It's a bad situation all the way around.

  5. Daz555

    Their motive is money. They know snooping is bad for business. As far as they are concerned snooping on their customers should be limited only to themselves in support of extracting more money from them via accurate consumer profiling.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Money makes worlds go round ..... but Intelligence spins them .. and Flash Crashes them

      Their motive is money. They know snooping is bad for business. As far as they are concerned snooping on their customers should be limited only to themselves in support of extracting more money from them via accurate consumer profiling. .... Daz555 Posted Monday 9th December 2013 16:20 GMT

      Snooping is great for business, Daz555. Just ask the Near, Middle and Far East.

      And ..... nowadays whenever one is in direct competition with and/or in opposition to an intelligent entity, whether that be recognised as a person of acute interest and quite heavenly body or fiendishly cunning devil, or a contemporary organisation into major macro management of global event theatricals, is the more taxing problem to be solved the one that resolves the dilemma of what is going to be done next, by that which is being monitored and/or mentored, rather than that which can be evidenced as having been done, for it is no good just having a guess at it oneself, based upon what may have gone on before, because all that delivers is what one oneself would possibly do, and would have no basis in fact at all with regard to what the watched would do. Anything proposed as likely in such cases would in fact be pure fantasy and a figment of a remote second and/or third parties' imagination.

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Syntax Error

      Re: Here is a plan...

      Alternatively move your businesses out of the USA. They can afford it. Move to India!! Its cheap!! And welcoming!!

      1. Otto is a bear.

        Re: Here is a plan...

        And this will give you exactly what additional protection against Government, India has one too, you know, and I suspect they are somewhat less liberal with data protection.

        I notice that no one is making any suggestions about what limits should be imposed, or what level of protection they expect the state to provide. Politicians care about two things, getting re-elected, and who funds their campaign. Thus the law will always err on the side of FUD and special interests. Don't forget that in a democracy, you are the state and you get the state you deserve.

  7. the old rang

    La Brea Tar Pits calling Governments Black.

    I find the list of accusers as funny as funerals.

    With all the totally denied spying these massive data collectors are guilty of, and especially the top ones (often times) 'hand in glove' data sharing with at least one (if not all) governments they are pointing fingers at...

    This is a shameful comedy of errors.

    No innocents in these groups. Spying, Data Collecting, buying and selling...

    Extreme political bias...

    Then, colluding to say they don't???

    That would be like the deadstream media giving an unbiased and truthful news report....

    It ain't so, Joe.

    1. btrower

      Re: La Brea Tar Pits calling Governments Black.

      @the old rang:

      Re: "No innocents in these groups"

      Sadly, too true. That includes even many of the losers and victims. They had and have a responsibility to protect their rights. They have abdicated their responsibilities and taken their neighbors down with them.

  8. i like crisps

    IT ALL FEELS A BIT.............SCRIPTED!

    Its like when we have "Inquiries" in this country. They take ages before they start. i've always thought that the reason must be is that it takes them a while to write a "Script", hand it out to all the "Players" and give them the necessary time to learn their "Part". And so long as everyone knows their "Lines" and doesn't start "improvising" the "Inquiry" is Guaranteed to give the Authorities the "White-Wash" they were hoping for. It also helps making sure that the person in charge of the inquiry is a "Senior Member" of the Judiciary who, no doubt, doesn't want to blot his copybook or his families name by being in charge of an inquiry that results in the "Downfall" of a Minister or ministers or even a Government.

    What makes me chuckle is that these particular companies were "Tapped-Up" years ago and they all agreed to the "requests" (not demands) of their countries Security Services. They had every opportunity to tell their Government to "get lost" but instead colluded to keep the Planet in the dark about their activities.

    Money seems to be the main reason floated about as to why they were so eager to please and certainly they have plenty of that but also they seem to be immune to any form of Corporation Tax, Globally. One can only assume that the "Bottom Line" of these companies is being impacted upon in some way because "Middle Men" aren't "Noble" or "Charitable" by nature, and their belated attempt to paint themselves as the "Victims" of this particular Drama just doesn't wash. I would have more respect for these people if they just came out and said that they are the "Cyber-Paramilitary-Wing of the "New-World Order" and that its their job to monitor every human being to make sure that "He" or "She" knows their place....under the thumb of their Masters....FOREVER.

  9. Graham Marsden

    Why do pots...

    ... and kettles come to mind?

    "We're only snooping on everything to make you safer..."

    "We're only snooping on everything you do to target ads at you..."

    (In chorus) "It's for your own good!"

  10. nuked

    But it is fun to watch

  11. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Dear NSA

    It has come to our attention that your snooping uses methods and technology that we developed to snoop on the same people. Please cease and desist.


    Silicon Valley

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Dear Silicon Valley,

      FCUK that LOVE,



      cc GCHQ Marketing Hack re Live Operational Virtual Environments

      [Wakey, wakey, Vauxhall Station/Thames House/Cheltenham, Hands off CoXSSXXXX and on with SOCKS. There’s precious precocious invaluable work to be done and you lose when you don’t dare share foreplay to win win. Or is the private and pirate sector the vector that feeds and seeds public financed bodies with department heads following scraps of leads? Surely both real and virtual presentations of in-house streaming productions is a much better beta for stealthy metadata dissemination/universal showing that captures the future with IT attending to every possible detail]

  12. notempora

    Extra-territorial data collection is not governed by any law.

    As a non-US person, none of this is going to help me in the slightest. Comments on 'Reform Government Surveillance' are completely missing the point, just as every article that highlights PRISM is completely missing the point.

    The world can be divided into:

    (a) US-persons in the US communicating with US-persons in the US where the IP packets never leave the US,

    (b) everyone else.

    Communications in group (a) have some protection from the Fourth Amendment, and PRISM is subject to a bit of judicial oversight. RGS may be relevant for these people by providing a bit more transparency and overnight. But good luck on trying to persuade anyone to reverse Smith v. Maryland and prevent warrantless collection of metadata (for which there is no "legitimate expectation of privacy"). And well done to Google et al. for making it highly questionable whether there is any expectation of privacy for email at all.

    But if you are in group (b) then RGS is not going to help at all. Almost inevitably your data will leave your shores and then it is open house for interception.

    "Collection of data by any nation from outside its territory is literally lawless and not restricted by any explicit international treaties"

    "There is no extraterritorial obligation on states to comply with human rights…The obligation is on states to uphold the human rights of citizens within their territory and areas of their jurisdictions."

    It is very unlikely that my email is captured by PRISM, but it is a racing certainty that it is captured by Tempora and the NSA extra-territorial taps.

    We have known since 2001 that the NSA has been installing taps on undersea fibre-optic cables. Good luck on trying to persuade GCHQ and NSA to stop reading their taps. Even if they said they had stopped using them, would you believe them? This is extra-territorial - THERE ARE NO LAWS. Good luck on trying to get agreement on an international treaty to restrict surveillance - it ain't gonna happen!

    As for the self serving RGS suggestion that "Governments should not require service providers to locate infrastructure within a country’s borders or operate locally", some sensible European governments are requiring data to be processed locally precisely to avoid access as the data leaves their borders. I would want something much stronger before I felt happy about my health data being captured by GCHQ/NSA.

    "If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past several months, it’s that the Internet is a very different place from what we thought it was. If you’re sending e-mail “in the clear,” you no longer have to ask if it’s being read—we know it is. The question is who’s reading it. In this environment, we’re not going to preserve our privacy from dragnet surveillance through legislation or wishful thinking. The only guaranteed way forward is through technological solutions, and these can’t just be modestly better or easier to use than what we have today. They must be spectacular."

    What is needed for email is default encryption (even a single click is too arduous) and encryption of the metadata so that even if the owners of the servers wanted to reveal traffic data, they would be unable to do so.

    TL;DR US communications have some protection for the Fourth Amendment and RGS might help them. For everyone else, extra-territorial surveillance is not governed by any laws and is not going to stop. The only way forward is a technological (encryption) solution so that even the server owners can't read the data.

  13. Vin King

    Rein your spooks in. I see what they did there.

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