October 24, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C…. The global economic and policy ramifications of the U.S. government’s data collection and surveillance programs are profound and far-ranging. The U.S. government must take action to regain the public trust, both domestically and abroad.  The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) plays a significant role in this discussion and can take important steps to address some of these concerns by ensuring that privacy and civil liberties are appropriately considered in connection with data collection and surveillance programs. That’s the view from leading technology business organizations. In a detailed submission to PCLOB dated October 24, 2013, BSA | The Software Alliance, the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), SIIA – Software & Information Industry Association, and TechNet outline steps that can be taken by the U.S. government.

“The measures outlined below would promote an appropriate culture of transparency surrounding the government’s intelligence-gathering program – without national security risks,” the tech associations explained.

The full letter is available online.

Policy prescriptions put forward by the associations include:

  • Transparency into the data requests being made by the federal government of private companies.  Transparency is a core value of the technology sector.  Companies should be permitted to disclose the number of government orders for information made under specific legal authorities, including the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.  Companies should be permitted to disclose the number of individuals or accounts, including accounts of business customers, impacted by the orders received as well as the type of information that is sought by such orders. 

In addition, as appropriate, the U.S. government should supplement its mandatory annual reporting with information similar to what companies should be permitted to disclose: the total number of orders under specific authorities for specific types of data, and the number of individuals or accounts affected by each.

  • Changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). Steps should be taken to ensure that civil liberties concerns are appropriately addressed in the FISC. The declassification of appropriate FISC decisions and the appointment of an adversary to challenge the U.S. government’s position can be important steps.  
  • Use technology to protect privacy, not exploit loopholes. Consider how technology tools can be utilized to protect the integrity and confidentiality of information collected and maintained as part of properly authorized and supervised surveillance activities and to better address certain privacy and civil liberties concerns.

Without these actions, the organizations fear that the international repercussions for the U.S. government and, by association, U.S. companies operating overseas will be significant.  Already, major trading partners like Brazil and the European Union are considering strict measures that would begin to unravel the global economy by forcing companies wanting to operate within their borders to house all operations there or restrict the transfer of data outside their jurisdiction. In addition, the European Union is considering a proposal that would require U.S. companies to obtain approval from European regulators prior to responding to U.S. government requests for information.

Media contact

Amy Weiss, Amy@weisspublicaffairs.com, 202-203-0448

About ITI

ITI is the premier advocacy and policy organization for the world’s leading innovation companies.  ITI navigates the relationships between policymakers, companies, and non-governmental organizations, providing creative solutions that advance the development and use of technology around the world.  Visit itic.org to learn more.