At the roughly one-year anniversary of the NSA leaks, Reform Government Surveillance, a group backed by a number of notable tech companies, is publishing a letter demanding the Senate strengthen the NSA reform bill that recently passed the House.
According to the letter, in the coming weeks, the upper chamber of Congress has the “opportunity to demonstrate leadership and pass a version of the USA Freedom Act that would help restore the confidence of Internet users.” Why a version and not merely what passed the House? The letter continues:
Unfortunately, the version that just passed the House of Representatives could permit bulk collection of Internet “metadata” (e.g. who you email and who emails you), something that the Administration and Congress said they intended to end. Moreover, while the House bill permits some transparency, it is critical to our customers that the bill allow companies to provide even greater detail about the number and type of government requests they receive for customer information.
The letter is signed by the CEOs of AOL (TechCrunch owner), Apple, Dropbox, Yahoo, Twitter, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and LinkedIn. Tomorrow, it will be published, according to the group, in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Politico. The tech leaders are therefore trying to reach general and political audiences with their complaints.
The USA FREEDOM Act was rushed through to passage after a long period of purgatory. It passed, but in the process, 76 of its 152 co-sponsors voted against the bill, because what the proposal had was not what they had supported.
Reaction was quickly negative. The final version left room for bulk collection to continue, precisely what the bill had set out to prevent.
After voting against the bill, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, one of its original co-sponsors, stated that the final version fell “short of the Fourth Amendment protections Americans deserve” and likely “makes it legal for the NSA to continue mass surveillance of U.S. citizens.” Oops.
Earlier today Microsoft published a post of its own, describing a number of changes it would like to see in how the government handles surveillance. Included in that list was bulk collection.