Sunday, November 23, 2014

The NSA, the Freedom Act and Privacy Rights

  • Last week, the U.S. Senate voted 58-42 for the Freedom Act (60 votes were needed for the bill to pass).  The act’s intent is to 1) end the National Security Agency’s efforts to collect the phone records of millions of Americans not suspected of a crime, 2) require government disclosure of the number of people whose data have been collected and report how many were American citizens and 3) create a panel of privacy and civil liberties advocates to review spying requests submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
  • Supporters of the bill included the Obama administration and technology companies such as Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo
  • Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (and co-sponsor of the bill) said, after its defeat "If we do not protect our Constitution, we do not protect our country and we do not deserve to be in this body."
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said "At a moment when the United States is conducting a military campaign to disrupt, dismantle and defeat (the Islamic State), now is not the time to be considering legislation that takes away the exact tools we need to combat (the Islamic State)."
  • Senator Marco Rubio said "As the rise of ISIL has demonstrated, the world is as dangerous as ever, and extremists are being cultivated and recruited right here at home…This legislation would significantly weaken and, in some cases, entirely do away with some of the most important counter-terrorism capabilities at our disposal, which is why I will not support it.”
MY TAKE
  • While the bill was weaker than most supporters had hoped for, its passage would have been the first time a law was in place to curb the NSA’s spying activities.
  • It is likely that many technology companies, U.S. citizens and global trading partners will continue to be concerned about the NSA’s reach. This will likely also drive demand for encryption and other privacy related solutions.

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