The year may be winding to a close, but a coalition of 9 tech companies want lawmakers in Washington, D.C. to curb the government’s surveillance powers before the close of this congressional session.
The group, which includes Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, AOL, Dropbox and Evernote, sent an open letter to members of the U.S. Senate, urging them to vote on the USA Freedom Act. That law, which the letter says will curb bulk metadata collection and expand companies’ ability to disclose what data requests they get, was introduced to the Senate by Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
Unsurprisingly, the push to get this law passed came about after information about U.S. surveillance practices was leaked to the press by Edward Snowden. Those practices, which include the bulk collection of phone records and tapping communications between tech companies’ servers, have made it harder for U.S. tech companies to attract customers from overseas.
The reasoning behind this letter seems pretty obvious: the midterm elections this month will change the balance of power in Congress, putting Republicans in control of the House and Senate for the first time since 2007. While the bill passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support, the new Republican-controlled Senate may not be as interested in passing it next year.
The full letter is included below:
The Senate has an opportunity this week to vote on the bipartisan USA Freedom Act. We urge you to pass the bill, which both protects national security and reaffirms America’s commitment to the freedoms we all cherish.
The legislation prevents the bulk collection of Internet metadata under various authorities. The bill also allows for transparency about government demands for user information from technology companies and assures that the appropriate oversight and accountability mechanisms are in place.
Since forming the Reform Government Surveillance coalition last year, our companies have continued to invest in strengthening the security of our services and increasing transparency. Now, the Senate has the opportunity to send a strong message of change to the world and encourage other countries to adopt similar protections.
Passing the USA Freedom Act, however, does not mean our work is finished. We will continue to work with Congress, the Administration, civil liberties groups and governments around the world to advance essential reforms that we set forth in a set of principles last year. Such reforms include: preventing government access to data without proper legal process; assuring that providers are not required to locate infrastructure within a country’s border; promoting the free flow of data across borders; and avoiding conflicts among nations through robust, principled, and transparent frameworks that govern lawful requests for data across jurisdictions.
Now is the time to move forward on meaningful change to our surveillance programs. We encourage you to support the USA Freedom Act.