Reform Government Surveillance, a group that is representing large technology companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple asked the U.S. Senate on Tuesday not to push back reform of National Security Agency surveillance. The Reform Goverment Surveillance requested lawmakers not to extend the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act.
The companies that have formed the Reform Government Surveillance group are Apple, AOL, Evernote, Dropbox, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Twitter and Yahoo.
Only last week, the House of Representatives voted 338-88 to approve the USA Freedom Act which would, among other specifications and results, stop the highly controversial bulk collection of phone records of American citizens by the NSA. The Freedom Act also induces placing restrictions on the search terms that are used to retrieve the records.
The bill has been facing opposition in the Senate from Republican members who are supporting the renewal of the actual Section 215 of the Patriot Act which provides the legal framework for the process of collecting phone data.
The importance for Congress to pass legislation is underlined by the upcoming expiry on June 1 of specific parts of the Patriot Act, among which is Section 215. Under a so-called “sunset” clause, the specifications will lapse unless they are reauthorized in the same or in a modified form.
A bill pushed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in May would assure the surveillance provisions of the Patriot Act stay in place until 2020. To buy time as efforts are concentrated on reform, another bill has been introduced in the senate calendar in order to extend Section 215 and other provisions which are set to expire in the current form until July 31.
The technology giants announced that the USA Freedom Act averts the bulk collection of Internet information and provides for more transparency regarding government demands for user data from technology companies. It also assures that the relevant accountability and oversight mechanisms are in place.
The USA Freedom Act targets, for example, to change the specifications for national security letters, that are used by the government to obtain information from electronic or wire communication service providers but also from other agencies as well. Recipients will be permitted to challenge the nondisclosure conditions, which are associated with these documents, and also the national security letters.
The open letter signed by the tech companies and sent to members of the Senate warns that pushing back action on reform would “a missed opportunity.”
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