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NSA revelations prompt tech industry to call for privacy safeguards

Kenneth Corbin | Aug. 27, 2013
Leading trade organisations representing tech firms call on White House to tighten privacy and transparency requirements associated with government's electronic surveillance programs.

Additional, the trade groups are appealing for reforms to an aging electronic privacy law that they say no longer makes sense in the age of cloud computing.

They are asking for the White House to endorse the reforms to the 1986 Electronic Privacy Communications Act, or ECPA, that have been introduced in the Senate and would require law enforcement authorities to obtain a warrant to access the contents of electronic communications stored with all cloud providers.

"We urge the Obama Administration to support efforts to pass a clean ECPA bill and oppose efforts to include carve outs to the warrant requirement, which would weaken the privacy protections the bill seeks to establish," the groups wrote.

At the outset, the groups contend that commercial privacy issues such as targeting advertisements to consumers' online behavior must be treated separately from the government's surveillance programs, "as the policy considerations in these two areas are distinct."

The letter follows a series of meetings that White House officials held earlier this month with industry representatives, privacy advocates and other stakeholders concerning the privacy implications of the government's intelligence activities.

The tech trade groups say that they are encouraged by President Obama's directive to the intelligence community to bring more information about PRISM and other similar programs to light, and are calling for a high level of transparency and detail to be included in a new website that will serve as a hub for public information about the government's activities.

"The tech industry can be a positive force in helping the government achieve a balance between the needs of law enforcement and national security, and the protection of privacy and civil liberties," says SIIA President Ken Wasch. "A key element in making this work is improving transparency and giving businesses the flexibility to provide consumers with more information about the extent to which government has access to personal information."

 

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