Recent revelations of the NSA’s expansive surveillance programs harm user trust in the digital ecosystem, stifle innovation, and lead to a harmful balkanization of the Internet. Internet users around the world must be able to trust that their information, communications and documents are safe and secure. The alternative is a race to the bottom where only those users who seek out complex, bolt-on security tools get protected communications, or worse yet become reluctant to use digital communications and avoid services that both improve their lives and drive commerce. Those of us in the technology sector, citizens at home, and constituents globally are asking what can be done to regain user trust.
One obvious answer is to change U.S. law to limit the ability of the NSA to conduct such mass surveillance. The Freedom Act, introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Sensenbrenner and in the U.S. Senate by Senator Leahy, does just that. The Freedom Act takes an important step toward rebuilding user trust by adding limitations on government collection of data in the name of national security.
The idea is simple. The NSA should not have a blank check to access user data from technology companies. Today, gaps in oversight and legal review permit the NSA to collect and use massive amounts of data about foreigners AND Americans. This infringes fundamental notions of privacy for many and undermines safeguards against unreasonable search afforded under the Constitution. If adopted and passed into law, the Freedom Act would end bulk collection of Americans’ communications records. It also requires the government to aggressively filter and discard information about Americans collected through PRISM and other programs. Other changes proposed by the Freedom Act can be found here.
Certainly, more is required to address this issue as each day we learn of new and disturbing aspects of global surveillance on citizens around the world. The Freedom Act is not a wholesale fix to the myriad of issues exposed by the NSA’s surveillance programs, but it is a step in the right direction. We support Congressman Sensenbrenner and Senator Leahy’s leadership on this crucial issue.
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