Washington, DC – Internet Infrastructure Coalition (i2Coaliton) Co-Founder and Board Chair Christian Dawson released the following statement in response to President Obama’s remarks on surveillance reform:
“This morning President Obama introduced a set of guidelines aimed at reforming the government’s surveillance practices. The President’s recommendations, while containing some supportable goals, fall short of the meaningful reforms necessary to restore confidence in both U.S. privacy norms, and in its technology industry.
“The i2Coalition supports statements in the Presidential directives that set in motion processes that move towards curtailing the dragnet collection of U.S. citizens’ communications records, increasing transparency in some areas and strengthening minimization procedures for personal information swept up in lawful collection processes. We also support the President’s call for Congress to authorize the establishment of a panel of advocates from outside government to provide an independent voice in significant cases before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. We believe an independent voice in the surveillance process will help restore confidence that the U.S. government takes privacy concerns seriously.
“But, despite these welcomed reforms, the President’s recommendations are still lacking when it comes to striking the appropriate balance between privacy and security. Without actions that include meaningful reforms to both bulk surveillance, and the indiscriminate use of National Security Letters, all together such a balance is unlikely to be achieved.
“As the Review Group noted in their report and again in Tuesday’s hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the bulk collection programs employed by the National Security Agency are neglecting civil liberties and undermining privacy. Unlike retailers and other commercial entities who track spending habits and other metrics using their customers’ data, one can’t simply refuse to shop at NSA’s surveillance superstore.
“Each new report detailing unchecked and often warrantless electronic surveillance deepens the concerns that our customers are harboring over the security of their information, at home and overseas. This has had a profound economic impact on U.S. Internet companies: according to a recent study by The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, revelations surrounding the PRISM surveillance program alone could cost U.S. based cloud providers up to $35 billion in revenue, and countries like Germany, Switzerland and Brazil are actively seeking to cut ties with U.S. web hosts, insisting that data will be better protected on domestic servers.
“While we appreciate the President’s continued engagement on this issue, i2Coalition believes that his proposals alone are not sufficient to reform the surveillance community’s collection of data or restore global trust in U.S. Internet companies.
“The President’s directive contains a number of words and phrases such as “legitimate privacy concerns,” and “appropriate safeguards” that have proven to be subject to broad interpretation. Additionally, Presidential directives are subject to change, and, importantly, have been in classified manners. The statements in the directive, while appreciated, should be codified for their effect to resonate quickly and powerfully.
“The proposals laid out in Senator Leahy’s USA Freedom Act would alleviate many of these concerns, restoring confidence in U.S. Internet companies by holding United States government agencies to international privacy norms. We welcome any effort that sheds light on an issue that threatens the vitality of the free and open Internet, and look forward to reforms that will preserve the U.S. innovation economy.”