A collective of large tech companies has urged the Senate to pass the USA FREEDOM Act, a bill that it could vote on this week.
Reform Government Surveillance, which counts Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Twitter as members, released a letter to the Senate, calling the week’s vote an “opportunity” to pass the “bipartisan” law. The Act will, according to the companies, prevent “bulk collection of Internet metadata,” and increase “transparency about government demands for user information from technology companies.”
The bill does not go far enough, the group notes, saying that “preventing government access to data without proper legal process” and “transparent frameworks that govern lawful requests for data across jurisdictions” remains areas where work is needed. Still, the bill would provide “meaningful change to [the nation’s] surveillance programs,” the letter reads.
The Senate version of the USA FREEDOM Act has been mostly well received by privacy advocates, even though there is general admission that the bill’s failure to address surveillance under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is a critical weakness.
As the tech companies point out, there is more to do.
American technology corporations have a financial incentive to pursue reform — if companies and users around the world do not trust their products and services to be protected from intrusion by the United States government, they won’t purchase those goods. Profits are king in the empire of cash, after all.
The bill will need to clear a 60 vote threshold before being voted on, when it can pass with a simple majority. There is some talk that the House is willing to pass the Senate version of the bill, to get the issue past, and clear the decks for the new Congress that will be sworn in next year. We’ll see.
More than a trillion dollars in market cap just threw their weight behind the bill. Can’t really call it anti-business now, can we?