Technology firms, privacy advocates urge changes to US spying programs

WASHINGTON -- A coalition of the nation's leading technology firms and privacy advocates is urging changes in the government's spying programs.

It's pressing for more limits on collections of Americans' data and greater oversight and transparency about the secret operations. The companies' action joins a day of protests against the Obama administration's surveillance policies.

Top executives from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, AOL, LinkedIn and Twitter published a joint statement and sent a letter Tuesday to President Barack Obama and members of Congress. The coalition urges changes that would include a government agreement not to collect bulk data from Internet communications.

Media accounts based on leaks from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden reported that the U.S. and the United Kingdom intercept massive amounts of metadata abroad from foreign users and sometimes from Americans.

The companies were joined by an online push from citizens and nonprofit groups advocating more civil liberties and increased privacy.

The event was dubbed “The Day We Fight Back ” and saw a viral presence on social media sites.

Activists were urged to contact their legislators to demand an end to the spying programs and more protections for individual privacy.

The site even offered activists a script to use when talking or emailing their representatives.

The day of protest was spurred partly by the death of technologist and Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz. Swartz took his own life on Jan. 11, 2013 after facing legal action from a variety of federal agencies.

Swartz was active in protests and dialogue to kill the Stop Online Piracy Act that activists said would have changed the fabric of the Internet.

The date of Feb. 11 was chosen in part to honor Swartz.

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