The group Reform Government Surveillance, which includes Apple, AOL, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo, and more, has joined dozens of other organizations in calling on the US government to reform mass surveillance and end the bulk data collection programs revealed over two years ago by Edward Snowden.
Google explains in a blog post that with sections of the Patriot Act concerning bulk metadata collections expiring, now is the time for reform.
"At the end of May, Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act is set to expire. Section 215 is one of the legal authorities relied upon by the U.S. government to conduct surveillance through the bulk collection of communications metadata. Earlier we joined other companies in the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, civil society groups, and trade associations in a letter that underscores the essential elements of any surveillance reform legislation," says Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond.
In that letter, addressed to President Obama, Eric Holder, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, NSA Director Michael Roger, members of Congress, and more, the coalition admits that its members probably don't agree on the exact course of reform, but two things must happen.
"Many of us have differing views on exactly what reforms must be included in any bill reauthorizing USA PATRIOT Act Section 215, which currently serves as the legal basis for the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephone metadata and is set to expire on June 1, 2015. That said, our broad, diverse, and bipartisan coalition believes that the
status quo is untenable and that it is urgent that Congress move forward with reform," it reads.
Here's what the group says must be included in reform:
There must be a clear, strong, and effective end to bulk collection practices under the USA PATRIOT Act, including under the Section 215 records authority and the Section 2 214 authority regarding pen registers and trap & trace devices. Any collection that does occur under those authorities should have appropriate safeguards in place to protect privacy and users’ rights.
The bill must contain transparency and accountability mechanisms for both government and company reporting, as well as an appropriate declassification regime for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court decisions.
This isn't the first time that this group of companies has pushed for a curbing of mass government surveillance