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Apple, Google and Microsoft join forces to slam NSA

Apple, Google, Microsoft and five other tech giants have joined forces to demand much stricter limits on the US National Security Agency.

Like Professor X and Magneto putting aside their differences to fight the secret government organisation hell-bent on wiping out mutants, Apple, Google, Microsoft and five other tech giants have joined forces to demand much stricter limits on the US National Security Agency.

The combined might of AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo is directed at President Obama and the US Congress at reformgovernmentsurveillance.com, which outlines five principles the companies believe should be enshrined in law.

As representatives of the US tech industry, their point might be better served by a website that actually works, but Google's conveniently cached a copy here.

"The undersigned companies believe 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," the open letter says. "While the undersigned companies understand that governments need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety and security, we strongly believe that current laws and practices need to be reformed.

"Consistent with established global norms of free expression and privacy and with the goals of ensuring that government law enforcement and intelligence efforts are rule-bound, narrowly tailored, transparent, and subject to oversight, we hereby call on governments to endorse the following principles and enact reforms that would put these principles into action."

The five principles it outlines are: limiting governments' authority to collect information, oversight and accountability, transparency, allowing information to flow freely, and avoiding conflict.

"Reports about government surveillance have shown there is a real need for greater disclosure and new limits on how governments collect information," says Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. "The US government should take this opportunity to lead this reform effort and make things right."

"The security of users' data is critical, which is why we've invested so much in encryption and fight for transparency around government requests for information," writes Google CEO Larry Page. "This is undermined by the apparent wholesale collection of data, in secret and without independent oversight, by many governments around the world. It's time for reform and we urge the US government to lead the way."

The open letter follows a similar declaration from Microsoft, in which its chief lawyer Brad Smith expressed alarm at the recent reports of NSA surveillance and promised to improve his company's encryption and transparency.

Whistleblower Edward Snowden's leaks have shaken the reputation of the US tech industry, with foreign customers understandably concerned that American tech has secret 'back doors' for US spooks to intercept data. Microsoft has pledged to let all its corporate customers verify no such holes exist before they use its products.

Do you trust American tech companies less? Do you think they're doing the right thing by lobbying for stricter limits on spies? Or will it reduce their ability to make us safer? Voice your thoughts in the comments, or on our heavily encrypted Facebook page.