Tech industry objects to terrorist activity reporting section in US legislation

Industry groups have asked the Senate to delete the section which requires them to report vaguely-defined terrorist activity

Powerful tech industry groups have asked the U.S. Senate to drop a plan to require Internet companies to report terrorist activity on their platforms, as the provision could potentially raise privacy issues for users.

Section 603 of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 would require Internet services companies, who obtain "actual knowledge of any terrorist activity," to provide to the appropriate authorities the "facts or circumstances" of the alleged activities.

Describing "any terrorist activity" as a vague and overbroad term, the Internet Association, Reform Government Surveillance and Internet Infrastructure Coalition have in a letter Wednesday warned that the provision could result in "overbroad reporting to the government, swamping law enforcement with useless information, and potentially raising First Amendment and privacy concerns for the user who posted the item."

"The core term that triggers the reporting mandate, any 'terrorist activity,' is infeasible due to its breadth," wrote the organizations that are backed by large tech companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and Google. "It is not a legal term of art nor is it ever defined in the legislative text."

The proposed reporting obligation will also be different from current mandatory reporting requirements for child sexual abuse imagery under U.S. law, as the content in child pornography is in itself unlawful, usually easy to detect, and is not protected speech under the constitution, according to the letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid. A key senator had earlier compared the provision on terrorist activity to existing provisions on reporting child pornography.

Over 30 civil rights groups and trade bodies also wrote to key senators earlier this week, warning that section 603 would create incentives for Internet services providers to over-report on the activity and communications of their users, just to avoid violating the law.

The facts and circumstances associated with alleged terrorist activities would in some cases include the contents of private communications, such as emails, private messages on social media, files and photos stored on cloud services, "which law enforcement would ordinarily be required to obtain a warrant to access," the groups wrote in a letter on Tuesday.

The provision has faced opposition in the Senate as well. Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, put a hold last week on the bill, saying that he wanted to work with colleagues to revise or remove Section 603 so that the rest of the bill could move forward. The House of Representatives passed a version of the Intelligence Authorization Act in June.

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!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags governmentsecurityprivacylegislationU.S. SenateInternet AssociationInternet Infrastructure CoalitionReform Government Surveillance

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

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

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.

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?