Every government wants to keep its citizens safe and secure. This is a difficult and crucial task, especially in the face of tragic attacks and the increased sophistication of criminal networks.
But government efforts to protect citizens from unnamed threats cannot come at the expense of our rights to privacy and free expression. In many countries, we’ve lost the balance between national security and individual rights.
Meaningful surveillance reform is overdue.
In 2013, Edward Snowden shocked the world with deeply troubling revelations about the extent of government surveillance, particularly in the US and the UK. This opened a difficult but necessary conversation about the extent to which governments monitor citizens and the methods they use to do it.
For example, the US government can use the USA PATRIOT Act to collect information without any specific intelligence purpose and without effective judicial oversight. Just as troubling, policymakers are pressuring companies to turn over the security keys to their systems—and even build secret backdoors—to make it easier for governments to access user data.
These approaches undermine our rights and stunt the free flow of information online. But there are clear paths to change.
We need to stand together and speak out for real, substantive surveillance reforms that protect citizens’ rights. Here are a few things we need:
- Limitations. Reasonably limit the scope of government surveillance. For example, put an end to bulk collection of metadata and warrantless surveillance.
- Oversight and accountability. Institute legal and technical mechanisms that subject surveillance requests to strong checks and balances. This will protect privacy and free expression while preserving lawful access to data that can help keep citizens safe.
- Transparency. Permit companies to be transparent with users about how, when, and how much data governments are requesting about their users so that citizens may hold their governments accountable.
- Cooperation. Develop transparent and principled legal mechanisms that enable governments to cooperate in their investigative efforts and exchange information across jurisdictions.
People around the world have come together at key moments to demand meaningful reforms, like when the Take Action community demanded the US Congress close major loopholes in the USA FREEDOM Act. These demands are gaining momentum, but we need your help to make sure reform goes all the way.