Google, Facebook Warn NSA Bill Wouldn’t Stop Mass Surveillance

Several powerful tech companies join a chorus of privacy groups withdrawing support for the USA Freedom Act — which the House will vote on Thursday.

A computer workstation bears the National Security Agency (NSA) logo inside the Threat Operations Center inside the Washington suburb of Fort Meade, Maryland, intelligence gathering operation 25 January 2006 after US President George W. Bush delivered a speech behind closed doors and met with employees in advance of Senate hearings on the much-criticized domestic surveillance. 
National Journal
Dustin Volz
May 21, 2014, 1:36 p.m.

A day be­fore the House will vote on a ma­jor bill de­signed to rein in gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance, a group of blue-chip tech firms are warn­ing that the meas­ure falls far short of what is ad­vert­ised.

The Re­form Gov­ern­ment Sur­veil­lance co­ali­tion — whose mem­bers in­clude Google, Face­book, Mi­crosoft, AOL, Apple, Twit­ter, Linked­In, Drop­Box, and Ya­hoo — is­sued a state­ment Wed­nes­day an­noun­cing it was pulling its sup­port of the USA Free­dom Act. The le­gis­la­tion would take the stor­age of phone re­cords out of gov­ern­ment hands and keep them with phone com­pan­ies.

But newly amended lan­guage in the bill has “moved in the wrong dir­ec­tion” of true sur­veil­lance re­forms, the tech com­pan­ies said.

“The latest draft opens up an un­ac­cept­able loop­hole that could en­able the bulk col­lec­tion of In­ter­net users’ data,” the co­ali­tion said. “While it makes im­port­ant pro­gress, we can­not sup­port this bill as cur­rently draf­ted and urge Con­gress to close this loop­hole to en­sure mean­ing­ful re­form.”

The loop­hole re­ferred to is the Free­dom Act’s defin­i­tion of a “spe­cif­ic se­lec­tion term,” which un­der­went changes in the new­est ver­sion of the bill re­leased this week. Earli­er drafts, in­clud­ing the one passed two weeks ago by the House Ju­di­ciary and In­tel­li­gence com­mit­tees, defined se­lect­ors as “a per­son, ac­count or en­tity.” But the new lan­guage — which adds words like “ad­dress and “device” and the non-lim­it­ing term “such as” — is seen as more broad.

Also on Wed­nes­day, the Com­puter & Com­mu­nic­a­tions In­dustry As­so­ci­ation, whose mem­bers ad­di­tion­ally in­clude Pan­dora, Sam­sung, Sprint and oth­ers, said it would “not sup­port con­sid­er­a­tion or pas­sage of the USA Free­dom Act in its cur­rent form.”

Sev­er­al pri­vacy groups have already re­vol­ted against the bill, cit­ing sim­il­ar con­cerns with the new lan­guage. Har­ley Gei­ger, seni­or coun­sel with the Cen­ter for Demo­cracy & Tech­no­logy, said the bill would al­low for “an un­ac­cept­able level of sur­veil­lance.” While the lan­guage could im­pose some lim­its on in­fin­itely vast bulk col­lec­tion of phone re­cords, Gei­ger said, it could still po­ten­tially al­low col­lec­tion on areas as large as area codes or cit­ies.

Earli­er on Wed­nes­day, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion made of­fi­cial its sup­port of the amended Free­dom Act, which is a product of weeks of back­room ne­go­ti­ations among the White House, in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials and House lead­er­ship.

The House is sched­uled to vote on the bill Thursday un­der closed rules, mean­ing that no amend­ments will be al­lowed.

What We're Following See More »
SHE’LL HAVE A ROLE WITH CLINTON CAMP
Wasserman Schultz to Resign at Week’s End
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

"After hours of private talks," Debbie Wasserman Schultz agreed to step down as chair of the Democratic National Committee after the convention ends. In the wake of the convention intrigue, Hillary Clinton announced she's making Wasserman Schultz "the honorary chair of her campaign's 50-state program."

Source:
MARCIA FUDGE TO PRESIDE
Wasserman Schultz Stripped of Convention Duties
15 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz "will not have a major speaking role or preside over daily convention proceedings this week," and is under increasing pressure to resign. The DNC Rules Committee on Saturday named Ohio Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge as "permanent chair of the convention." At issue: internal DNC emails leaked by Wikileaks that show how "the DNC favored Clinton during the primary and tried to take down Bernie Sanders by questioning his religion."

Source:
EARLY BUMP FOR TRUMP?
New Round of Polls Show a Tight Race
2 days ago
THE LATEST
  • A Rasmussen Reports poll shows Donald Trump ahead of Hillary Clinton, 43%-42%, the fourth week in a row he's led the poll (one of the few poll in which he's led consistently of late).
  • A Reuters/Ipsos survey shows Clinton leading 40%-36%. In a four-way race, she maintains her four-point lead, 39%-35%, with Gary Johnson and Jill Stein pulling 7% and 3%, respectively.
  • And the LA Times/USC daily tracking poll shows a dead heat, with Trump ahead by about half a percentage point.
BELLWETHER?
Candidates Deadlocked in Ohio
3 days ago
THE LATEST
17-POINT EDGE AMONG MILLENNIALS
Clinton Dominates Among Younger Voters
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

In an election between two candidates around 70 years of age, millennials strongly prefer one over the other. Hillary Clinton has a 47%-30% edge among votes 18 to 29. She also leads 46%-36% among voters aged 30 to 44.

Source:
×