Two House and Senate Judiciary committee leaders on privacy issues have introduced legislation to add transparency requirements to the law used by the NSA to carry out surveillance on Americans. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has introduced the Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., “The Surveillance Order Reporting Act.”
Both bills give companies who receive data demands from the government the ability to report raw numbers in theirtransparency reports to users. Franken’s bill also would require the government to annually report the scope of itssurveillance requests it carries out using authority like that given in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and US PATRIOT Act, as well as the numbers of Americans and legal residents targeted. The bills are fairly similar in terms of seeking more transparency so that those outside the intelligence community can better understand the size, scope and use of surveillance.
The Computer & Communications Industry Association had cautioned about the need for checks and balances onsurveillance and had testified against the renewal of FISA. The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:
“These bills represent a concrete first step toward giving the American people some of the information they need if they are going to fully evaluate the surveillance law that they live under. It also gives American Internet companies the ability to set the record straight on exactly what the government requests, enhancing user trust online.”
The following can be attributed to CCIA Public Policy and Regulatory Counsel Ross Schulman:
“Reporting only the raw numbers of government requests to companies is a step that can only help the American people and businesses at the same time. Concrete information about the scope of surveillance activity under the PATRIOT Act is something that has been missing from the public debate since its passage. In addition, listing only the numbers of requests is unlikely in the large majority of cases, to truly harm national security interests.”
For more on why CCIA believes transparency is a critical part of the national debate on this issue see Black’s Huffington Post editorial “Secrecy, Democracy and the NSA.”