US technology giants support legislation to clip NSA wings

Updated - June 07, 2016 07:22 am IST

Published - November 01, 2013 12:33 pm IST - Washington

This undated US government photo shows an aerial view of the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Maryland. File photo

This undated US government photo shows an aerial view of the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Maryland. File photo

Alarmed by the revelation of the secretive internet surveillance programmes of the National Security Agency, six American technology giants — Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple, AOL and Facebook — have supported a legislation to clip the NSA wings.

In a letter to Senators, these technology giants backed the legislation authored by thee lawmakers to end NSA’s bulk collection of phone records.

“We applaud the sponsors of the USA Freedom Act for making an important contribution to this discussion. Recent disclosures regarding surveillance activity raise important concerns both in the United States and abroad,” the letter said, adding that the volume and complexity of the information that has been disclosed in recent months has created significant confusion here and around the world, making it more difficult to identify appropriate policy prescriptions.

“Our companies have consistently made clear that we only respond to legal demands for customer and user information that are targeted and specific,” the letter said.

“Allowing companies to be transparent about the number and nature of requests will help the public better understand the facts about the government’s authority to compel technology companies to disclose user data and how technology companies respond to the targeted legal demands we receive,” the companies said.

“Transparency in this regard will also help to counter erroneous reports that we permit intelligence agencies direct access to our companies’ servers or that we are participants in a bulk Internet records collection program,” they said.

Noting that transparency is a critical first step to an informed public debate, but it is clear that more needs to be done, they said that they believe that government surveillance practices should also be reformed to include substantial enhancements to privacy protections and appropriate oversight and accountability mechanisms for those programs.

The USA Freedom Act was introduced this week by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and Representative Jim Sensenbrenner. This legislation includes important provisions to increase transparency, allow companies to report more statistical information about the number of demands they receive, and reforms the FISA court.

The Washington Post said the tone of industry reaction to the NSA revelations has grown more aggressive since the first stories appeared in some of the dailies including it.

“The NSA has finally done something so egregious that the US Internet industry can do nothing but respond with demands for reform of the law to protect their systems and their users,” Kevin Bankston, from the New America Foundation, was quoted as saying by Politico.

The bill also addresses the problem of how to reform substantive and scope provisions from both, the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act, said Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) applauding the legislation.

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