Washington – President Obama announced changes to the way the government collects and stores bulk metadata on citizens and foreigners’ electronic communications during a speech at the Department of Justice today. The Computer & Communications Industry Association is encouraged that the president acknowledged the potential for abuse of this private information, but wished the reforms he announced went further.
CCIA President & CEO Ed Black, who has testified several times before senators about his concerns about government surveillance, was at the Department of Justice for President Obama’s announcement. The following can be attributed to Mr. Black:
“The president’s speech was empathetic, balanced and thoughtful, but insufficient to meet the real needs of our globally connected world and a free Internet.
“It’s clear the president recognizes the potential for government overreach on surveillance and he is trying to provide more oversight and transparency about data collection. But we’re disappointed he did not completely halt the collection and analysis of bulk metadata. We would have liked him to have followed the lead of his appointed review group and call for greater examination of the NSA’s subversion of encryption standards, and for changes to the ways in which the NSA can access Americans’ content without a warrant (under Section 702 of FISA).
“President Obama acknowledged the need to review the value of surveillance alongside the need to maintain the trust and cooperation of people and leaders around the world. So his directive to the Attorney General to develop some safeguards for foreign citizens on how long data is held and for what purposes it can be used is a good start, but there is more we can and must do protect foreign users’ privacy and enhance their trust in the Internet.
“Several of the reforms the president announced directed a government agency to study or look for a better way to do something such as tasking the DOJ to come up with a new system to get the same intelligence benefits with less impact on privacy. It’s obviously too soon to say what improvements could result from that.”