Washington — In a joint letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Computer & Communications Industry Association, and eight other associations cautioned Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D- Calif., and Richard Burr R-N.C. about the side effects of the bill they introduced this week. The “Requiring Reporting of Online Terrorist Activity Act” would require online communications services to report potential terrorist activity, and could subject many innocent people to government investigation.

Opponents, including Sen. Ron Wyden, warn that the bill is unlikely to be effective. Reporting pursuant to a vague definition of “terrorist activity” will likely bring innocent people under the scrutiny of the U.S. government, through a process with few limitations on the use of shared information or other safeguards. The bill is largely identical to a provision removed from the 2015 Intelligence Authorization Act for those same reasons earlier this year.

CCIA is concerned that the vagueness of the reporting requirements will chill speech and leave providers in the untenable position of making substantive determinations about the contents of vast quantities of online communications. Online service providers, erring on the side of caution, will generate too many false leads for law enforcement, while truly bad actors would likely switch to offshore services that would not be subject to this additional reporting obligation.

The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“While CCIA shares the concerns about combatting terrorism, this legislation will unfortunately do more harm than good. The law as it is written now creates incentives for overreporting, for little security benefit, while further shaking worldwide Internet users’ confidence in U.S. digital services.”