To Spy or Not to Spy; Congress to Decide

Do Internet users need to be better protected from the impending surveillance act extension? Tech groups readying themselves for conflict with Capital Hill.

Dec 31st was the expiry date for section702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Tech groups have been bandied together to remind Congress that the decision to extend the act should not be taken so lightly. And there should be an open debate rather than a rubber stamp to the provision which allows the National Security Agency to spy on people overseas.

There are six major tech groups gathered together so far to fight the imminent extension of the Act; these include BSA, the Consumer Technology Association as well as the Computer and Communications Industry Association.

In a recent letter (Pdf) to Congress, they stated that “In our view, it is critical that Congress takes a balanced yet focused approach with respect to Section 702.”

Further requesting measures should be taken by the committee to ensure transparency and accountability, and a commitment to continued Congressional oversight.

Gif Source: Tumblr

There were no demands or ideas for further amendments to the act just certain points reminding the committee members of their obligations to protect internet users privacy and civil liberties by including meaningful safeguards if there is to be any reauthorization of the act.

Many civil liberties groups and activists have joined to form End 702, they are more forthcoming saying “Absent a full reform” the act needs to expire. Further stating on their website “Section 702 of FISA has allowed for mass surveillance programs, including PRISM and UPSTREAM, that have been used by the US government to warrantlessly collect and search the Internet communications of people all over the world.”

The NSA Prism internet surveillance program first came to prominence when revealed by the infamous NSA whistleblower Edward Snowdon. Revelations that showed section 702 of FISA allowed the NSA to hoard data of American citizens whether home or abroad, this was originally defended by President Obama saying it was necessary to protect against terrorism.

U.S. intelligence agencies further defended this as being essential to combat security threats. In a committee hearing last May, Matthew Olsen an executive with IronNet Cybersecurity explained that as the director of the National Counterterrorism Centre he was informed of dozens of terrorist plots which were thwarted due to NSA surveillance. As well as stressing it was vital to our security.

But with the explosion of the use of encryption apps such Signal and Confide, who use state of the art, end to end encryption. Furthermore, Confide has a default feature which automatically self-destructs messages. Is this the tech world’s way of fighting back without having to battle in court or draw blood.

Source: CciaNet (PDF) | Coverage: PC World | Image Via: Flickr/FJ


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Written by Salek Ahmed

Salek Ahmed is a London based writer who is passionate about journalistic integrity and seeks to illuminate people with news and information not readily available or prominently displayed in the mainstream. Salek is passionate about equality, justice, and helping to create a more informed human race.