Apple, Google, Facebook and a "who's who" list of other technology companies and organizations have asked the Obama administration to end the bulk collection of American communication metadata when a provision of the Patriot Act expires June 1. An open letter from the tech industry urges the government not to renew Section 215 of the law, which permits intelligence agencies to log the communications of American citizens.
The letter -- also signed by Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo, Dropbox, Evernote and a slew of trade associations and other companies -- asks President Barack Obama and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers to implement a new strategy for storing metadata. Obama proposed a new methodology last year, suggesting that telecommunications companies keep metadata and turn it over to the NSA only after a more transparent legal process. Yet the open letter made public Wednesday is just the latest indication that the disclosures made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden have had a major effect on the relationship between Washington and Silicon Valley.
“It has been nearly two years since the first news stories revealed the scope of the United States' surveillance and bulk collection activities,” the letter says. “Now is the time to take on meaningful legislative reforms to the nation's surveillance programs that maintain national security while preserving privacy, transparency and accountability. We strongly encourage both the White House and members of Congress to support the above reforms and oppose any efforts to enact any legislation that does not address them.”
The letter came one day after two members of the House of Representatives introduced a bill that would completely repeal the Patriot Act, the vast national security legislation authorized in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. That bill, the Surveillance State Repeal Act, would prohibit the government from forcing tech companies to install “backdoors” that make it impossible to prevent spying. The bill also would guarantee greater protection for whistleblowers and completely reform the secret court that authorizes American surveillance tactics.