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Google calls for real surveillance reform to preserve privacy

Asks the people to pressure congress for protection against bulk harvests
Fri May 30 2014, 12:47

nsaINTERNET GIANT Google has thrown its weight behind demands for real US surveillance reform and a genuine data collection overhaul.

Its statement follows a decision by the US Congress to water down controls over things like bulk email harvesting and privacy erosion.

Google took to Twitter to draw its users to its campaign and link to a webpage where we are reminded about whistleblower Edward Snowden and the scale of US government surveillance.

"It's been a year since Edward Snowden shocked the world with his deeply troubling revelations about the extent of US government surveillance. The House of Representatives just passed a bill called the USA Freedom Act," it said in a statement.

"That bill was designed to prevent the bulk collection of Internet data (e.g., who you email and who emails you) by the US Government. This kind of surveillance - where data may be collected for no specific intelligence purpose and without effective judicial oversight - runs counter to our democratic principle."

It said that the bill was weakened as it made its way through Congress and includes loopholes that urgently need reform.

Google is reasonably late to this party and its statement and call to arms follows similar demands from civil liberties groups. Index on Censorship suggested that an opportunity had been missed, and rued the weakening of the USA Freedom Act.

"Ambiguities, rather than perfections, end up being the enemy of the good. Laws that are poorly drafted tend to be more than mere nuisances - they can be dangerous in cultivating complacency before the effects of power. Well as it might that the USA Freedom Act has passed, signalling a political will to deal with bulk-collection of data," it said in a statement.

"But in making that signal, Congress has also made it clear that compromise is one way of doing nothing, a form of sanctified inertia."

The American Civil Liberties Union has expressed issues with a number of points in the act, and said that a really strong USA Freedom Act would do more to protect citizens. However, it did acknowledge that there are positive aspects to the legislation.

"Last week the House voted to limit the National Security Agency's sweeping collection of telephone records. But the bill approved was scaled back at the last minute," it said.

"This is the first time since passage of the Patriot Act that Congress has acted in any way to restrain, rather than expand, foreign intelligence surveillance authority. The Senate must now take up the mantle and go even further to protect Americans' privacy rights."

The EFF was ‘dismayed' by the gutted act reforms, and said that it had expected the "ending [of] the mass collection of Americans' calling records."

"House Leadership reached an agreement to amend the bipartisan USA Freedom Act in ways that severely weaken the bill, potentially allowing bulk surveillance of records to continue," it said. "The Electronic Frontier Foundation cannot support a bill that doesn't achieve the goal of ending mass spying." µ

 

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