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September 9, 2014

Tech Community Urging Senate to Pass the USA Freedom Act — and Soon

National Security Agency photo

The tech world is upping the pressure on the Senate to promptly pass the USA Freedom Act — legislation meant to bring an end to the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records by government agencies such as the National Security Agency.

A letter penned by a coalition of technology industry groups to the leaders of the Senate expressed support for the Act reintroduced bySenate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy July 29. Members of the tech organizations taking the Senate to task include big names such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter.

Leahy submitted an updated version of the USA Freedom Act which builds upon legislation passed in the House in May, as well as the original legislation Leahy introduced with Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) last October. If passed, bulk collection under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act and other surveillance authorities would be banned and the government would be required to narrow the scope of searches. It would also ensure more transparency and better reporting requirements, as well as key reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Anti-software piracy group, the BSA, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, the Information Technology Industry Council, the Reform Government Surveillance and the Software and Information Industry Association is asking the Senate to “act in a bipartisan fashion and swiftly pass” the legislation.

“The revelations about the U.S. government’s surveillance programs that began in June of 2013 have led to an erosion of public trust in the U.S. government and the U.S. technology sector,” reads the letter. “In an effort to begin restoring that trust, the USA FREEDOM Act will prevent the bulk collection of Internet metadata, call detail records, and other tangible things in a manner that both enhances privacy and protects national security.

“These reforms, among the others contained in the USA FREEDOM Act, will send a clear signal to the international community and to the American people that government surveillance programs are narrowly tailored, transparent, and subject to oversight.”

When the news broke last summer that the U.S. government was spying on its citizens as well as others, it had a negative impact on American technology companies, the groups said. Since NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden went public with the agency’s surveillance programs, the government has been under fire, both from its own citizens and from other countries. Tech companies have also experienced some backlash.

“As a result of the surveillance program revelations, U.S. technology companies have experienced negative economic implications in overseas markets,” the letter reads. “In addition, other countries are considering proposals that would limit data flows between countries, which would have a negative impact on the efficiencies upon which the borderless Internet relies.”

The first step in changing negative perceptions, the groups says, is to enact the new legislation.

An outline of the USA Freedom Act can be found here, and text of legislation can be found online.



Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.