Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

U.S. Tech Companies, Rights Groups Push Lawmakers For More Surveillance Disclosure

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Thursday, July 18 2013

A group of 22 tech companies, six investment management companies, and dozens of rights groups on Thursday demanded that they be allowed to disclose more detailed information about law enforcement requests for user information in the wake of The Guardian's revelations that the National Security Agency is actively scouring the telephonic and Internet communications of users worldwide.

Specifically, the groups want Internet, telephone and Web-based service providers to be able to tell the public about how many government requests for user information that they receive under various legal authorities, such as the business records section of the USA PATRIOT Act, and under foreign surveillance law.

They also want to be allowed to disclose the number of individuals, accounts and devices that were accessed by law enforcement authorities, and under what legal authority, as well as the number of demands for the contents of any user communications, and the legal basis upon which those demands were made.

The letter, which was addressed to President Obama and the leaders of the House and Senate, as well as the leaders of the relevant congressional committees, was signed by AOL, Apple, CREDO Mobile, Digg, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Sonic.net, Tumblr, Twitter, Yahoo! and others.

The 26 non-profits and trade associations include digital rights groups, such as the Center for Democracy and Technology, conservative groups, such as Americans for Tax Reform, and others, such as the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and the Internet Association.

The letter is the latest high-profile effort to press the Obama Administration to establish better accountability standards into its national security surveillance scheme, which, as several members of Congress noted in Wednesday's House Judiciary Committee hearing, is governed by secret laws and secret courts.

Both Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) also sent a letter with a similar request to Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Tuesday. Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! have all individually sent letters to Holder with the same requests.

Separately, the Center for Democracy and Technology started a social media campaign" dubbed "We Need to Know," to get members of the public to sign a White House petition to persuade the administration to enable this level of disclosure from the tech companies.

News Briefs

RSS Feed thursday >

NYC Open Data Advocates Focus on Quality And Value Over Quantity

The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications plans to publish more than double the amount of datasets this year than it published to the portal last year, new Commissioner Anne Roest wrote last week in an annual report mandated by the city's open data law, with 135 datasets scheduled to be released this year, and almost 100 more to come in 2015. But as preparations are underway for City Council open data oversight hearings in the fall, what matters more to advocates than the absolute number of the datasets is their quality. GO

Civic Tech and Engagement: Announcing a New Series on What Makes it "Thick"

Announcing a new series of feature articles that we will be publishing over the next several months, thanks to the support of the Rita Allen Foundation. Our focus is on digitally-enabled civic engagement, and in particular, how and under what conditions "thick" digital civic engagement occurs. What we're after is answers to this question: When does a tech tool or platform enable actual people to make ongoing and significant contributions to each other, to a place or cause, at a scale that produces demonstrable change? GO

More