Large Coalition Of Tech Companies And Advocacy Groups Demand Greater Transparency About NSA Surveillance

from the let-us-be-transparent dept

A large coalition of tech companies (including big ones like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Dropbox, Apple and AOL -- as well as small like... us here at Floor64) and advocacy groups/trade organizations (including the ACLU, EFF, CDT, CCIA, Engine, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Public Knowledge, Public Citizen and many more) have come together to support a move by Congress to allow much more transparency when it comes to government surveillance efforts. There's both the issue of general support for Congress being explicit in allowing tech companies to reveal information about government requests for info, and, more specifically, support for a couple of important bills introduced in Congress:

Specifically, we write to voice our strong support for S. 1452, the Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013, and H.R. 3035, the Surveillance Order Reporting Act of 2013, each of which would clarify that companies have the right to publish basic statistics about the government demands for user data that they receive. We urge the Committees to hold hearings on the issue of surveillance transparency as a prelude to the markup of these bills.

Many of the undersigned organizations and companies previously wrote a letter to you and other leaders in Congress and the Administration on July 18th, asking for legislation that would require more comprehensive transparency reporting by the government and allow for more comprehensive transparency reporting by US companies that receive national security–related information requests. We are thankful that Senator Franken, working with eleven cosponsors including Chairman Leahy, and Representative Lofgren, as part of a bipartisan coalition of nine cosponsors including Ranking Member Conyers and Representatives Poe and Chaffetz, were able to so quickly respond to the pressing need for more transparency around the US government’s national security surveillance efforts. Such transparency is important not only for the American people, who are entitled to have an informed public debate about the appropriateness of that surveillance, but also for international users of US-based service providers who are concerned about privacy and security
There are many, many things that need to happen in response to the revelations of the NSA's activities. This is just one minor step in a much bigger process, but it's an important one. The ability of the federal government to gag companies when it requests information is a huge violation of free speech rights and the basic right of the public to know what their government is doing on their behalf.



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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 9:44pm

    transparency means dick all at this point. Its been 6 MONTHS.

    a good start is to not host a single byte of your personal data inside the US ever again. None of these companies can be trusted.

     

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      silverscarcat (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 5:06am

      Re:

      Problem is, where would you store your data?

      In other countries? The NSA gobbles that up without needing a warrant.

      And other countries are just as bad, if not worse, than the NSA is.

       

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        John Fenderson (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 9:04am

        Re: Re:

        The NSA gobbles that up without needing a warrant.


        So, no different, then.

        Other countries are not worse (they have a lesser technological capability), but are increasingly just as bad.

        But you're right, the main thing is to stop storing data on third party servers at all, regardless of where the servers are located. If that's something that you cannot do, though, then the next best is to encrypt everything and stop using US servers. Not because US servers are less safe (although more often than not, they are), but because it will put direct financial pressure on major tech companies and encourage them to fight against the spying. Actions like this coalition are a signal that this is possible.

         

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        Jerrymiah, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 9:10am

        Re: Re:

        Nothing is worse than the NSA.... oops! may be GCHQ and the Obama Administration including Eric Rudolf "Heiss" Holder.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 11:04pm

    Is incredible what a threat to the bottom line can do.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 11:31pm

    Correction

    "... the basic right of the public to know what their government is doing on their behalf."
    Therein lies the problem - what they're doing isn't being done on behalf of the public. It's on the behalf of the NSA.

     

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    avideogameplayer, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 12:29am

    Here's a concept...

    Why didn't you say 'No' to begin with?

    But then again, it's easier to ask for forgiveness than it is not to do it to begin with...

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 1:22am

      Re:

      Saying no means, having the strength to endure immense pressure, it means having to deal with a judicial system that is designed to make you guilty of something, it means you will be under the microscope and people will find something to put you away.

      Do you have the strength to endure that kind of pressure?

      Can you deal with everyone telling you that you are a criminal?

      Can you deal with consequent attacks on your beloved ones for what others say you are?

      Only the people who have public support have a chance to get over that, CEO's of telcos and other companies most certainly don't have that kind of support because of the way they engineered their business.

       

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        avideogameplayer, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 2:09am

        Re: Re:

        And how much money do these companies have stashed?

        It's not about public anything...it's about money...

        The telcos can EASILY go toe to toe with the gubberment and can challenge any iffy 'subpoena' for data...

        Like Verizon, they choose not to...

        Why?

        MONEY...

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 4:09am

          Re: Re: Re:

          A telco CEO can EASILY find himself being "investigate" for other reasons, do you think any of them would like it?

          The government didn't FORCE everyone to comply without some serious leverage on their side.

          Look at Google and how it is being constantly attacked by officials all over the world, you think Google will not give up at some point?

          Saying no, at the moment is not an option for most business, unless they want to go under, and yes the government has that power, they will use the tens of thousands of laws in the books to make it happen some way or another, there are laws that are only enforced when it is convenient to do so and this is the primary tool the government uses to gain compliance from everyone including the telcos that are no saints but couldn't do anything even if they wanted to.

           

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    Josef Anvil (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 2:42am

    Where are the trolls???

    Whenever there is an article about surveillance, the trolls usually say...

    If you've done nothing wrong then you have nothing to hide.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 3:48am

    as important as this topic is, there needs to be something done to get a hell of a lot more transparency concerning the 'Trade Agreements' that the USA (mainly) keep instigating. with government leaders being in on the act now and TPP looking at being concluded very, very soon, after having absolutely no input from public groups but plenty of input (if not actually leading the direction the 'agreement goes!) from the likes of the USA entertainment industries and drug companies, transparency is vital! why should the people be put into a position of having to comply with something that they have been completely excluded from but will be completely hit by the conditions contained within it? no bill or law should be introduced that favours one side or one direction only! the main reason for this 'agreement' is so that governments can stifle free speech, remove privacy from the people (while keeping as much as possible of government and business dealings secret, to give surveillance powers to governments and to industries (Hollywood etc) and stop poor countries from making cheap drugs, bypassing mainly USA companies and removing their fantastic prices, so people can afford treatments to keep them alive!

     

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    Ninja (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 4:28am

    It's a little late but as the saying goes "better late than never". Hopefully things will shift back into the right path. Though I don't think the US Govt will let go of control without some blood (figuratively I hope).

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 4:43am

    Well - with the gov shutdown,
    they will have to stop spying ... right?
    they will have to stop all the wars ... right?

    Ohhhhh, you mean not really shutdown - only shutdown those things you do not like. So if a majority of the people want their representatives to put something in place and the opponents lack votes to stop it then it is within reason for the opponents to simply not do their jobs and thus achieve their goals .... got it. I'm certain that strategy is allowed within the Constitution somewhere, or maybe it is in precedence set in the court system - but I doubt it, it's more like bully playground rules and if you don't like it I'll take my ball and go home.

    It's a good idea to shutdown NOAA now that hurricane season is here. We really do not need to know when a storm is approaching because then people might stand a chance of getting out of its way. It must be less expensive when there are less people making claims - amirite?

     

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    Pragmatic, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 6:21am

    The only things being shut down are services that directly benefit the public, the idea being that it's being used as leverage by one group of politicians to blame the incumbent administration for the deadlock till they've got rid of the new healthcare laws their own think tank came up with... because the other guys decided to run with it.

    Don't fall for their tricks.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 7:20am

    More lame public posturing by mega-corporations.

    And corporatist Mike as ever goes right along with it.

    NONE of those corporations are being "forced" by the gov't to do anything! Google, for instance, pays FOUR TENTHS PERCENT TAX in the UK. Man, that's really being tortured.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2439760/Fury-Googles-12m-tax-sales-3bn-Paltry-s um-attacked-MPs.html

    ALL of those corporations are engaged in open fascist conspiracy with gov't to surveil and control the people. They are not your champions, and they do not have First Amendment rights because they're sheerly legal fictions.

    It's CORPORATISM that's the major distortion in free markets. Mega-corporations must be opposed because they're big, "too big to control", in cahoots not only with gov't but each other to rule the world. Individual "natural" persons have no chance against them.

    Why must we argue this EVERY time? Just read history of the 1920s and 1930s, people: corporatism led DIRECTLY to the Second World War, when corporatist states tried to literally take over the world!


    "Crony capitalism" is one of those terms people use to try and maintain that there's also a beneficial version; what the 99% actually want is well-regulated fair markets favoring Industrial Production over Money Manipulation.

     

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    Annie O', Oct 1st, 2013 @ 8:46am

    The only solution is encryption

    They're not going to stop now. At best they'll install "meaningful oversight", but that changes very little of the damage that is being done. The solution is encryption. We need to modify the TOR protocol in two important ways.

    First we need to be able to balkanize it, so that it just takes a few peers for it to work, say for example you and your neighbour. Or your friends at school. All you really need is one other user to be able to say to the police "it wasn't me!". It'd be super fast with only a few local hops. Right now it's slow because traffic is sent to random distant corners of the globe.

    Also, we also need a version of it for VPN's to use to anonymize each other's traffic over dedicated fat pipes. Any respectable VPN selling anonymity will want to claim to use this network, and all of the various players will cooperate to prove that everyone is, in fact, using it. Otherwise you're having to trust your VPN, which is no better than having to trust your ISP.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 11:08am

      Re: The only solution is encryption

      First we need to be able to balkanize it, so that it just takes a few peers for it to work, say for example you and your neighbour


      You can do this with Tor right now.

      we also need a version of it for VPN's to use to anonymize each other's traffic over dedicated fat pipes


      They could also do this with Tor right now, if they wished to.

      BTW, I always feel the need to remind people that "VPN" does not automatically mean "third party service". I use VPNs heavily for my own networking needs, but I do not use a third party VPN service for this. I run my own.

       

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