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Web giants demand limits on government surveillance

Eight Web giants have joined hands to start a public campaign for new limits on how governments collect user information amid concerns of growing online surveillance. 

The companies — Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo Inc and AOL — issued an open letter to President Barack Obama and Congress to bring in reforms and restrictions on surveillance activities. 

Documents leaked by former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency had penetrated and perhaps targeted some of the companies, prompting Microsoft, Google and Yahoo to increase the amount of encryption. 

The letter said the companies understood that governments need to protect their citizens' safety and security, but they believed the current laws and practices need to be reformed. 

The "Reform Government Surveillance" campaign details five major concerns including limiting governments' authority to collect users' information, transparency about government demands and avoiding conflicts among governments.  

Obama said last week he intends to propose NSA reforms to reassure Americans that their privacy is not being violated by the agency. 

"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," Google CEO Larry Page was quoted on the website. 

"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 U.S. government to lead the way." 

In a step aimed at reassuring nervous users abroad, last week, Microsoft pledged to fight in court any attempt by U.S. intelligence agencies to seize its foreign business customers' data under American surveillance laws.