Privacy in the New Digital Age - Meeting with President Obama
Last week a group from the technology and communciations industry met with the President to talk about the recent government surveillance scandals. I was fortunate to be one of them, and in a two hour meeting we talked about the nature and importance of privacy in the new digital age. The President, thoroughly familiar with the issues, listened to each and every representative and let us know he will try to finalize decisions in January. After our meeting his Presidential task force released a report endorsing pretty much the same points we made. The US and the President have an opportunity to take the moral high ground and show what the limits of government surveillance of citizens in a democracy should be.
Here are the principles we presented to the White House (which form the campaign you find at http://reformgovernmentsurveillance.com
Limiting Governments’ Authority to Collect Users’ data
Governments should codify sensible limitations on their ability to compel service providers to disclose user data that balance their need for the data in limited circumstances, users’ reasonable privacy interests, and the impact on trust in the Internet. In addition, governments should limit surveillance to specific, known users for lawful purposes, and should not undertake bulk data collection of Internet communications. (Bulk data collection can be misused, leaked and used by the government to track perfectly legal domestic activities. Advances in machine intelligence can make this much more of an invasion of privacy for Americans.)
Oversight and Accountability
Intelligence agencies seeking to collect or compel the production of information should do so under a clear legal framework in which executive powers are subject to strong checks and balances. Reviewing courts should be independent and include an adversarial process, and governments should allow important rulings of law to be made public in a timely manner so that the courts are accountable to an informed citizenry.
Transparency About Government Demands
Transparency is essential to a debate over governments’ surveillance powers and the scope of programs that are administered under those powers. Governments should allow companies to publish the number and nature of government demands for user information. In addition, governments should also promptly disclose this data publicly. This information, published legally, will calm down some of the outlandish claims being made by foreign firms and transparency is always a better regulatory approach.
Respecting the Free Flow of information
The ability of data to flow or be accessed across borders is essential to a robust 21st century global economy. Governments should permit the transfer of data and should not inhibit access by companies or individuals to lawfully available information that is stored outside of the country. Governments should not require service providers to locate infrastructure within a country’s borders or operate locally.
Avoiding Conflicts Among Governments
In order to avoid conflicting laws, there should be a robust, principled, and transparent framework to govern lawful requests for data across jurisdictions, such as improved mutual legal assistance treaty — or “MLAT” — processes. Where the laws of one jurisdiction conflict with the laws of another, it is incumbent upon governments to work together to resolve the conflict.
See for examplehttp://www.cbsnews.com/news/panel-recommends-far-reaching-nsa-reforms/
And Ryan Lizza’s history of NSA activity in this areahttp://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/12/16/131216fa_fact_lizza
As well as this interview with Snowdenhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/edward-snowden-after-months-of-nsa-revelations-says-his-missions-accomplished/2013/12/23/49fc36de-6c1c-11e3-a523-fe73f0ff6b8d_story.html