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Government Surveillance

Center for Democracy & Technology to Testify Tomorrow in Support of the Surveillance Transparency Act

Tomorrow, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) Free Expression Director Kevin Bankston will testify at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law in support of Subcommittee Chairman Al Franken’s Surveillance Transparency Act. The bill would allow Internet companies to publish statistics reflecting the specific numbers of information requests that the government issues to them under specific surveillance authorities, as well as statistics indicating the number of people affected and the types of data sought. It would also require the government to report similar information.

The legislation was introduced in response to a coalition letter organized by CDT in July and signed by a broad range of major Internet companies, startups, trade associations and non-profit organizations. The letter pressed Congress for greater transparency around the government’s surveillance practices in the wake of revelations about the scope of the National Surveillance Agency’s surveillance programs. That same coalition issued another letter in September supporting the bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Franken. A representative of Google, a member of the coalition, will also testify at the hearing.

“It’s high time that the Internet companies that we trust with the privacy and security of our data are allowed to share basic statistics about what they do–and don’t do–when the NSA comes calling,” said Bankston. “We the people have a right to know, the companies have a right to tell us, and their sharing such basic information will not harm national security. It will, however, help to inform the American public and policymakers about how the US government is using its spying powers, and will help to reassure foreign governments and international users who have lost trust in the privacy guarantees of US companies.”

“We are thankful to Senator Franken for introducing the Surveillance Transparency Act, and for Representative Sensenbrenner and Senator Leahy for including similar transparency provisions in their USA FREEDOM Act, which CDT also supports,” Bankston continued. “Greater transparency is no replacement for substantive reform of our surveillance laws, but can serve as a key stepping stone toward that broader reform by helping us all better understand how the government is using its current authorities.”

The hearing takes place tomorrow, November 13, 2013 at 10 a.m. and will be livestreamed on the Committee’s hearings page. Bankston’s written testimony will be published tomorrow on the Committee hearing page as well as CDT’s website.