Mozilla is striking back against PRISM, the secret government program that collects data from the world’s leading Internet companies to spy on U.S. citizens. The Mountain View, Calif.-based software company, known for the Firefox Web browser, launched StopWatching.US on Tuesday to demand full disclosure on which data, communications and interactions are being monitored by the government.
“The revelations about the National Security Agency’s surveillance apparatus, if true, represent a stunning abuse of our basic rights,” the website said. “We demand the U.S. Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA’s spying programs.”
Mozilla is hoping to spark the same enthusiasm it achieved in its successful campaigns against SOPA and PIPA, two anti-piracy bills that were shot down by Congress. Mozilla and others were able to rally hundreds of thousands of people to reach out to their elected officials in that campaign.
“We need to rekindle that energy more than ever so our elected officials take the necessary actions to illuminate how current surveillance polices are being implemented,” Alex Fowler, Mozilla’s privacy and public policy leader, wrote in a blog post.
Fowler detailed four levels of exposure online. The first three levels of online exposure to the government include public online logging activities, geolocation, and unintentionally over-sharing on social networks. Fowler writes how these are pretty well understood, and users can learn about them by reading privacy policies and terms of service for various websites. There are also services that users can use to hide their activity.
Fowler wrote that there is a fourth level that is much more serious: governments, law enforcement and intelligence agencies accessing the private data of U.S. citizens. This kind of exposure is more serious because the government requires companies to give up such data with a court order.
The problem is that the Internet is making it much easier for the government to run this sort of surveillance, even as there is much more data for governments to collect than ever before. Also, users don’t have good ways of knowing what’s happening. These decisions happen behind closed doors, and the court orders often don’t allow companies to inform users.
Fowler said in the blog post that Mozilla has not received any such court orders, but it realizes that it could very well happen. The company has been committed to protecting user privacy and was named the “most trusted Internet company for privacy” in 2012. Mozilla has also been adamant about including privacy features in the Firefox browser, such as “Do Not Track.”
“Mozilla believes in an Internet where we do not have to fear that everything we do is being tracked, monitored and logged by either companies or governments,” Fowler wrote. “And we believe in a government whose actions are visible, transparent and accountable.”