Coalition seeks release of surveillance data

Jul 18, 2013
A poster protests surveillance programs at a demonstration at the US consulate in Hamburg, Germany, on July 11, 2013. A coalition of Internet firms and activist organizations asked the US government Thursday to issue "transparency reports" on its data collection programs which have sparked an outcry.

A coalition of Internet firms and activist organizations asked the US government Thursday to issue "transparency reports" on its online and phone data collection programs which have sparked an outcry.

"Democracy requires accountability and accountability requires transparency," said Kevin Bankston at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a digital rights group leading the effort.

"Yet the American people lack basic information about the scope of the government's surveillance of the Internet, information that many companies would eagerly share with their users if only they weren't gagged by the government."

Revelations last month about the so-called PRISM programs, which scoop up massive amounts of Internet and phone records to help thwart terrorist attacks, sparked a spate of protests and lawsuits claiming a violation of privacy and constitutional rights.

The groups released an open letter Thursday backed by major companies like Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and dozens of other companies and organizations. It was sent to President Barack Obama, his head of and key members of Congress.

Also endorsing the effort were investing in the tech sector, including Union Square Ventures and Y Combinator; non-profits like the Reporters Committee for Freedom of The Press and the Wikimedia Foundation; and trade groups including the Computer & Communications Industry Association.

The letter asked the US government to "ensure that those companies who are entrusted with the privacy and security of their users' data are allowed to regularly report statistics" on the number of government requests under these programs.

It also called on the administration to issue its own regular "transparency report" providing the same information.

"This information about how and how often the government is using these legal authorities is important to the American people, who are entitled to have an informed public debate about the appropriateness of those authorities and their use, and to international users of US-based service providers who are concerned about the privacy and security of their communications," the letter said.

Earlier this week, 19 US organizations filed suit against the National Security Agency claiming their constitutional rights were violated by its secret data collection programs.

The suit filed in California federal court alleges that the mass collection of phone records under the so-called PRISM program violates Americans' constitutional rights.

Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and other top Internet and technology companies have come under heightened scrutiny since word leaked of the vast, covert Internet surveillance program US authorities insist targets only foreign terror suspects and has helped thwart attacks.

Explore further: Secret court opens door to unsealing Yahoo! documents

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Secret court opens door to unsealing Yahoo! documents

Jul 16, 2013

The secret US court overseeing national security investigations has opened the door to declassifying documents related to the government's data collection program in a case involving Internet giant Yahoo!

Google asks US secret court to lift gag order (Update)

Jun 18, 2013

Google on Tuesday sharply challenged the U.S. government's gag order on its Internet surveillance program, citing what it described as a constitutional free speech right to divulge how many requests it receives ...

Yahoo seeks to reveal its fight against NSA Prism requests

Jul 12, 2013

In a rare legal move, Yahoo Inc. is asking a secretive U.S. surveillance court to let the public see its arguments in a 2008 case that played an important role in persuading tech companies to cooperate with a controversial ...

Microsoft presses US on data request disclosures

Jul 16, 2013

Microsoft said Tuesday it had asked the US government for permission to disclose details of how it handles national security data requests, citing "inaccuracies" in recent media reports.

Recommended for you

Twitter rules out Turkey office amid tax row

17 hours ago

Social networking company Twitter on Wednesday rejected demands from the Turkish government to open an office there, following accusations of tax evasion and a two-week ban on the service.

How does false information spread online?

19 hours ago

Last summer the World Economic Forum (WEF) invited its 1,500 council members to identify top trends facing the world, including what should be done about them. The WEF consists of 80 councils covering a wide range of issues including social media. Members come ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

'Chief Yahoo' David Filo returns to board

Yahoo announced the nomination of three new board members, including company co-founder David Filo, who earned the nickname and formal job title of "Chief Yahoo."

Simplicity is key to co-operative robots

A way of making hundreds—or even thousands—of tiny robots cluster to carry out tasks without using any memory or processing power has been developed by engineers at the University of Sheffield, UK.

Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis

When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects—specifically, ...

New clinical trial launched for advance lung cancer

Cancer Research UK is partnering with pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Pfizer to create a pioneering clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer – marking a new era of research into personalised medicines ...

More vets turn to prosthetics to help legless pets

A 9-month-old boxer pup named Duncan barreled down a beach in Oregon, running full tilt on soft sand into YouTube history and showing more than 4 million viewers that he can revel in a good romp despite lacking ...