THE ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION (EFF) has called for major legislative change and a "name and shame" culture targeting intelligence agencies that mount mass surveillance campaigns and the companies that assist them.
EFF activism director Rainey Reitman said the plan is the latest stage in the group's ongoing bid to protect US and non-US citizens' privacy from the National Security Agency (NSA) and its friends.
The initiative calls on individuals around the world to pressure politicians into cutting off intelligence agencies' abilities to mount mass surveillance operations at a legal level.
The EFF highlighted the controversial Executive Order 12333 surveillance law passed in 1981 by then president Ronald Reagan as a key obstacle to overcome.
"Most people haven't even heard of it, but Executive Order 12333 is the primary authority the NSA uses to engage in the surveillance of people outside the US," read the statement.
"President Obama could undo the worst parts of this executive order just as easily, by issuing a presidential order banning mass surveillance of people regardless of their nationality."
The EFF is already engaged in litigation against the NSA's use of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requests during the PRISM programme.
"The NSA claims (often wrongly) that certain US laws allow surveillance of all internet users, with almost zero oversight of its spying on non-US persons," noted Reitman.
"Fighting these laws is the bread and butter of our domestic legal team. Our lawsuits, like Jewel vs NSA, aim to demonstrate that warrantless surveillance is illegal and unconstitutional."
News of the NSA's mass surveillance operations broke in 2013 when whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked classified documents to the press.
The documents showed that the NSA is siphoning vast amounts of customer information from companies including Google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook.
The EFF called for the creation of a "praise" and "shame" culture that will reward companies fighting the data collection, such as Yahoo, and punish those that aid it, such as AT&T, to encourage firms to fight surveillance more openly.
"Tech companies are in a unique position to know about surveillance requests that are kept secret from the press and the public," read the statement.
"Often [these] companies spend that money trying to derail potential regulation. Instead, these companies could be heavily prioritising a positive surveillance reform bill."
The EFF pledged to continue supporting the Reset the Net and HTTPS Everywhere campaigns to aid this endeavour.
As a secondary measure, the EFF will create cross-national privacy advocacy groups and support networks that will offer guidance on how people can protect themselves and aid the organisation's anti-surveillance efforts.
The EFF has already created several information hubs, such as Surveillance Self Defense which offers guidance on how to easily and effectively encrypt personal data.
The EFF also called for the creation of "easier to use secure communication tools" and a "global movement that encourages user-side encryption".
Encryption is commonly viewed as a way to protect data from intelligence agencies. Its use has caused problems for intelligence agencies and law enforcement, with many arguing that it hampers anti-crime and terrorism efforts.
UK prime minister David Cameron hinted at plans to block services using encryption protocols that law enforcement and intelligence agencies can't unlock or crack during a speech earlier in January.
The EFF said that, even if all these measures are successful, they only address known issues about the NSA's surveillance, and that the government must be more transparent about its data collection tactics in order to truly protect citizens.
"It's extremely difficult to reform the world of surveillance when we don't have a full picture of what the government is doing and how it's legally justifying those actions," noted Reitman.
The NSA has constantly battled calls for increased transparency about its surveillance operations.
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