The Channel logo


By | Iain Thomson 26th March 2015 20:59

Silicon Valley powers: Let mass spying die in May 2015 – it's bad for privacy (and business)

Citizens' personal information is all OURS, say tech giants

Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Yahoo! – and many, many others – have appealed to American politicians and g-men to rein in mass digital surveillance this May, and bring the intelligence community under some kind of effective oversight.

"It has been nearly two years since the first news stories revealed the scope of the United States’ surveillance and bulk collection activities," the group wrote in an open letter to President Obama, congressional leaders, and the heads of the NSA and US Department of Justice.

"Now is the time to take on meaningful legislative reforms to the nation’s surveillance programs that maintain national security while preserving privacy, transparency, and accountability."

And, presumably, prevent future annoying headlines like this and this appearing on the web.

The tech goliaths are members of the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, along with pro-privacy and civil-rights warriors. The group has been piling on the pressure over global spying, which they say hurts their business. In their latest open letter, the gang call for reform of the USA PATRIOT Act, which is up for renewal shortly.

On May 31 this year, Section 215 of the act (or to give it its full and faintly ridiculous name, the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act) expires. Section 215 is the part of the anti-terror law that the NSA uses to justify snooping on everyone's phone metadata.

The group is pressing that the section be allowed to expire on June 1 without being reauthorized. Section 214, which covers pen registers and trap and trace devices, will also expire on that date. The group says that if they are renewed, proper oversight is needed by an independent third party.

With the sections of the Patriot Act coming up for renewal, there's an increasing amount of pressure to curb the blanket spying revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Earlier this week, a bipartisan bill was introduced into the US House of Representatives to abolish the PATRIOT Act altogether, but El Reg suspects Satan will go to work on a snowplow before it passes. ®

comment icon Read 12 comments on this article or post a comment alert Send corrections


Frank Jennings

What do you do? Use manual typwriters or live in a Scottish croft? Our man advises
A rusty petrol pump at an abandoned gas station. Pic by Silvia B. Jakiello via shutterstock

Trevor Pott

Among other things, Active Directory needs an overhaul
Baby looks taken aback/shocked/affronted. Photo by Shutterstock

Kat Hall

Plans for 2 million FTTP connections in next four years 'not enough'
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella


Suit-and-tie-wearing man tries to meditate, take deep breaths in faux yoga pose. Photo by Shutterstock
Emotional intelligence, not tech skills, is the way to woo suits
League of gentlemen poster - Tubbs and Edward at the local shop. Copyright BBC
One reselling man tells his tale of woe