Tags: NSA/Surveillance | technology | industry | pressures | Congress | NSA reform | pass

Tech Industry Increases Pressure on Congress to Pass NSA Reform

By    |   Monday, 17 Nov 2014 12:16 PM

Ahead of this week's planned vote, technology giants have penned an open letter calling on the Senate to pass a bill designed to curb controversial mass surveillance programs instituted by the National Security Agency.

"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," read the letter, which was signed by tech leaders, including Apple, Google, Microsoft,Yahoo!, Linked In, and Twitter.

The USA Freedom Act, which is sponsored by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, would limit the ability of the NSA to collect Americans' phone records and it would require the agency to obtain a court order before getting records from private phone companies.

In a Nov. 13 letter to incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) President and CEO Gary Shapiro said tech companies "have been hurt" by the reaction to the government's surveillance programs and urged passage of Leahy's bill.

"American technology companies have been hurt by the reaction to the revelation of the U.S. government's bulk data collection. Many companies have lost business, or face laws designed to restrict data flows, due to foreign governments' fear that the U.S. government can reach company-managed data at will. This distrust hurts U.S. companies competing globally for business, and could result in the loss of thousands of jobs. In fact, several companies, including members of CEA, have already lost contracts with foreign governments worth millions of dollars," he wrote.

A July 2013 study by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation reported that the revelations about the NSA surveillance programs could have a lasting impact on the U.S. cloud computing industry.

If Congress fails to pass reform, the report estimated that the U.S. cloud computing industry stands to lose $22 to $35 billion over the next three years.

Despite the support from tech companies, the bill has its opponents, primarily from Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Last week an aide to Paul told CNN that he would oppose the bill for several reasons, namely that it includes an extension of the Patriot Act.

"Due to significant problems with the bill, at this point he will oppose the Leahy bill," Sen. Paul's aide told CNN.

In addition, California Democrat Diane Feinstein and Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, believe it could go too far, reports The Hill.

Chambliss told The Hill in September that an unintended consequence of curbing the NSA would be to aid ISIS.

"If you want to take away the ability to monitor ISIS, then you eliminate the tools that are eliminated in the Leahy bill," Chambliss told The Hill.

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Ahead of this week's planned vote, technology giants have penned an open letter calling on the Senate to pass a bill designed to curb controversial mass surveillance programs instituted by the National Security Agency.
technology, industry, pressures, Congress, NSA reform, pass
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2014-16-17
Monday, 17 Nov 2014 12:16 PM
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