Tech Titans Withdraw Support For NSA Reform Bill


Tech giants object to a US government reform bill of the NSA, saying the measures do not go far enough

Big names in the tech industry withdraw their support of a US government bill, designed to reform the mass-surveillance activities of the National Security Agency (NSA) exposed last year by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The companies object to loopholes in the ‘USA Freedom Act‘, which is due to go before US lawmakers today (Thursday). These loopholes will still allow user data to be collected, but instead this data will stored with the telecomunications companies and not the NSA.

Surveillance Reform?

The Reform Government Surveillance coalition has therefore effectively withdrawn its support for the USA Freedom Act. This coalition is made up of big name tech companies including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, AOL, Apple, Twitter, LinkedIn, DropBox, and Yahoo.

america security - Shutterstock - © Bruce RolffThe group announced in a statement on Wednesday that it was not supporting the bill, because it didn’t go far enough. They claimed that the legislation “has moved in the wrong direction.”

The tech industry objections came as Bloomberg reported that Republicans in the House of Representatives had negotiated in private with President Barack Obama’s administration to alter the legislation.

“The latest draft opens up an unacceptable loophole that could enable the bulk collection of Internet users’ data,” the coalition reportedly said. “While it makes important progress, we cannot support this bill as currently drafted and urge Congress to close this loophole to ensure meaningful reform.”

The bill is widely expected to pass though the Republican-controlled House this week.

Until now, the NSA was able to collect and store the ‘meta data’ of phone calls made in America. The data includes numbers dialled and call durations without the content of conversations. The bill will now make telecommunication companies such as Verizon Communications, AT&T etc responsible for the storage of this data.

The NSA would then have to gain approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to search these records.

Bill Objections

The Open Technology Institute has already said that the USA Freedom Act has been substantially weakened, and has also withdrawn its support for the bill.

Likewise the Center for Democracy & Technology has also withdrawn its support, because the amendment would “significantly weaken the bill’s ban on the government’s bulk collection of data.”

“This legislation was designed to prohibit bulk collection, but has been made so weak that it fails to adequately protect against mass, untargeted collection of Americans’ private information. The bill now offers only mild reform and goes against the overwhelming support for definitively ending bulk collection,” said CDT President and CEO Nuala O’Connor.

Another non-profit group, the Computer & Communications Industry Association, whose members include Samsung, Sprint and others, said it would not support the bill.

“Absent greater clarity and improvements to the bill, which we would hope would follow greater public scrutiny, we do not support consideration or passage of the USA Freedom Act in its current form,” said Computer & Communications Industry Association President & CEO Ed Black.

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