ACLU, Others Push Senate Version of USA Freedom Act

A coalition of more than 40 groups including New America's Open Technology Institute, the ACLU, and the American Library Association, has asked the Senate to make passing the latest version of the USA Freedom Act (S. 2685) a priority when it returns to Washington Monday (Sept. 8), and without adding any amendments to "weaken" it.

That is the bill that reforms government surveillance of public communications, including by increasing transparency and public reporting. It is meant to rein in the kind of bulk data collection by government agencies exposed by leaker Edward Snowden, and would affect telco and cable companies.

"S. 2685 in its current form would provide significant transparency and privacy safeguards while preserving the tools intelligence agencies need to protect national security," the groups said. But they said their consensus support would be "severely disrupted" if mandatory data retention requirements were added. Currently, communications companies only have to retain records for the length of time they would normally keep them in the course of business.

Supporters of longer data-retention mandates argue that will prevent potentially important information from slipping through the net, but the groups say they pose "significant threats not only to privacy and civil liberties, but also to data security, as stories of data breaches at major corporations like Target, Neiman Marcus, UPS, and major banks demonstrate." Obviously, the more data that can be held for legal government searches, the more there is available for illegal ones.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.