Obama backs new surveillance legislation, but tech companies reject

A tech industry group said it cannot support the legislation in its current form

A tech industry group that has Facebook and Google as participants has rejected the latest draft of a U.S. legislation that aims to put curbs on surveillance by the National Security Agency.

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday said it supported swift passage of the USA Freedom Act by the U.S. House of Representatives, and urged the Senate to follow suit.

"Overall, the bill's significant reforms would provide the public greater confidence in our programs and the checks and balances in the system," the White House said in a statement.

But the tech companies, which also include Yahoo, AOL, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter and LinkedIn, have said in a statement that the latest draft opens up an "unacceptable loophole that could enable the bulk collection of Internet users' data."

The tech companies coalition, called Reform Government Surveillance, said it could not support the bill as currently drafted and urged Congress to close the loophole to ensure meaningful reform. The legislation has moved in the wrong direction, it added. The group did not give details of the loophole it wants removed.

In December, the tech companies called for the reform around the world of government surveillance laws and practices, with the U.S. taking the lead. Some Internet companies were charged in disclosures last year by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden of providing to the agency real-time access to contents on their servers, which the companies denied. There were also reports that the agency was tapping into communications links between the data centers of Yahoo and Google.

Civil rights groups have also criticized the new turn in the legislation which is meant to end bulk collection of communications records by the NSA.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, for example, is concerned about the new definition of "specific selection term," which describes and limits who or what the NSA is allowed to monitor.

The expression was originally defined in the legislation as "a term used to uniquely describe a person, entity, or account," wrote Kevin Bankston, policy director of the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute. The new definition, which refers to "a discrete term, such as a term specifically identifying a person, entity, account, address, or device," could allow for the use of broad selection terms such as a zip code. It converts an exclusive list of unique identifiers into an unbounded list of discrete identifiers, while explicitly adding addresses and devices as types of identifiers, Bankston wrote in a blog post.

"Congress has been clear that it wishes to end bulk collection, but given the government's history of twisted legal interpretations, this language can't be relied on to protect our freedoms," EFF said in a post.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags telecommunicationCarriersGoogleregulationsecurityU.S. National Security AgencylegislationgovernmentprivacyFacebook

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?