Support continues to mount for government surveillance transparency

Josh Peterson | Tech Editor

Companies and lawmakers are continuing their opposition to the secret surveillance of Americans.

Two more organizations have added their support to the Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013.

The bill, introduced by Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken on Aug. 1, would require the federal government to annually report information about the types of surveillance requests it makes to private companies.

The bill initially received the support of the Constitution Project and the Center for Democracy & Technology, and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) added its support for the bill on Friday.

On Monday, the Internet Infrastructure Coalition (i2 Coalition), in addition to also throwing its weight behind the bill, added that the bill should enable companies to voluntarily disclose details about government user data requests.

“By allowing companies to voluntarily disclose the details of government collection efforts, Sen. Franken’s bill would go a long way towards ensuring that U.S. Internet companies remain an important part of what needs to be a multistakeholder approach to crafting policy around this issue,” said David Snead, i2Coalition Co-Founder and Public Policy Working Group Chair.

California Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren also introduced legislation on Friday that would also narrow the restrictions that federal gag orders place on companies by enabling them to report more specific information about types of user data requests they are receiving from the federal government.

The bill, the Surveillance Order Reporting Act, would enable service providers to make quarterly estimates in a range of 100. For example, the federal government could make 0-100 user data requests to a company during the first quarter of the year.

Currently, Google discloses the number of National Security Letter requests it receives annually in an ambiguous range of 0-999.

On July 17, 65 tech companies, investors, trade associations and nonprofit organizations sent a letter to President Obama, senior members of the U.S. intelligence community, and senior members of the congressional intelligence committees asking for an annual surveillance transparency report from the federal government.

Current global outrage over the U.S. government’s surveillance programs are not only having legal consequences, but also business consequences.

A survey conducted by the Cloud Security Alliance between June 25 and July 9 suggested that 10 percent of the organization’s non-U.S. members canceled a contract with a U.S.-based cloud provider following former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations.

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation released a report on Aug. 5 estimating that by 2016, the U.S. cloud computing industry could lose between $22 and $35 billion in total revenue.

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