CCIA Praises Surveillance Reform Plans At Senate Judiciary Hearing

BY Heather Greenfield
December 11, 2013

Washington – During a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing Wednesday afternoon, Computer & Communications Industry Association President & CEO Ed Black testified on why it is in the national interest to reform the scope of government surveillance and to be transparent about remaining data collection practices so that Congress and the American people can evaluate surveillance policy. CCIA supports the committee’s legislation that would reign in bulk data collection and increase transparency.

Black emphasized how economic prosperity – not just individual liberties – is threatened by excessive Internet surveillance.  He cited a recent study from the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), which noted, “digital trade continues to grow both in the U.S. economy and globally” with US companies leading that growth. But U.S. surveillance programs risk undermining U.S. trade relationships, and that those strong relationships increase national security.

CCIA praised a bipartisan bill introduced by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy and Congressman James Sensenbrenner in the House that begins to address the core problem of how to reform the substance and scope of the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act.

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

“We are encouraged to see the Senate is taking action to require more transparency around surveillance. Without this transparency, it is difficult for other stakeholders to weigh in on how actions we are taking could undermine U.S. security in other key areas.

“US surveillance policy has been so focused on collecting more data that it failed to collect more input and to see how this narrow national security strategy would be not only damaging, but ineffective.

“Recent revelations about U.S. surveillance programs offer a critical opportunity to better align government actions with national goals of strengthening overall security and relationships with allies and trading partners. The size and scope of these programs demonstrates a tendency to expand surveillance programs; and with few checks and balances, that expansion can push the boundaries of current laws. It’s clear that better checks and balances are needed, and improved transparency is a key to having real oversight over the inherent and demonstrated tendency toward government overreach.”

“It is difficult to overstate how deeply the distrust over these surveillance revelations is impacting discussions on Internet governance, trade and online freedom around the world. Here in the United States the immediate government response has been focused on reassuring Americans’ rights and liberties. While this is understandable, it is important that the Committee also concern itself with the rights of global Internet users. If foreigner users are not provided any baseline assurances about privacy of their personal information, communications and associations, then America’s role as the world leader in Internet innovation and digital commerce is threatened.

“So long as US policymakers ignore the impact of surveillance on global Internet users, they are jeopardizing not just the U.S. Internet economy and digital trade, but this piece of a broader national security strategy. So it would be dangerously myopic to focus narrowly on security concerns — without consideration of the widespread economic damage from excessive Internet surveillance.”

“Economic security is part of national security, and this unchecked culture of surveillance is tearing at our credibility as a global leader of the Internet economy and advocate for Internet openness and freedom. Eight tech companies made this point in an open letter this week asking for a list of reforms, which we support.

“We are heartened that the Chairman’s legislation with more than a dozen co-sponsors shows growing understanding that surveillance policies that undermine the trust in the Internet impacts not just individual U.S. companies, but overall U.S. economic competitiveness.”

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