Expansion of CALEA Concerns CCIA

February 16, 2011

The Computer & Communications Industry Association is sending to all Members of Congress a joint letter expressing concern about the impact of renewed efforts to expand the government’s power to wiretap and electronically spy on citizens.

The open letter to members of Congress and the Administration is jointly signed by the American Library Association, the Business Software Alliance, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and others. The letter explains the serious harm to users’ privacy and trust when government surveillance expands, especially with insufficient checks and balances such as better judicial oversight. It also offers questions to help the government determine whether this expansion is appropriate.

CCIA has been a longtime voice against Internet censorship, filtering and surveillance. A copy of the letter can be found here.

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

“There is always a temptation in Washington to look at issues separately rather than holistically from a set of core principles such as Communications and Internet Freedom. When we oppose Internet filtering censorship in repressive regimes, it makes it difficult to be taken seriously when we engage in surveillance ourselves. While it is tempting to assume that our government’s warrantless monitoring of telephone calls and burdensome search engine subpoenas should not to be equated with the systematic oppression in authoritarian states, these distinctions are hard to make to the rest of the world. Quibbling about our government’s benign intent or the order of magnitude of civilian monitoring undermines the credibility the U.S. government needs to truly be a leader in the fight for Internet freedom and openness.

Even if this additional power is not deliberately misused, the loss of privacy in personal and confidential business communications would inflict significant damage on the dynamic and innovative growth intrinsic to our digital economy and information technology sectors. Openness and growth in electronic commerce cannot be sustained if end users fear a betrayal of privacy and security.

The tech industry is confronted with escalating monitoring and surveillance and censorship by repressive foreign regimes. We appreciate this administration’s efforts to get more involved in promoting Internet freedom in our trade and diplomatic agendas. But those efforts will ring hollow and fall flat if all we can show is that our own surveillance is somewhat less intrusive or pervasive than those of Internet Restricting Countries. These regimes would surely copy any expanded surveillance policies we implement. Expanding the powers of law enforcement might seem tempting in the short term, but we risk wounding our nation’s security and moral authority in the long term.”

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