Technology Leaders Speak Up About NSA Mass Surveilance

Top executives from leading Silicon Valley companies are taking a proactive stance of displeasure at the National Security Agency conducts mass surveillance and espionage operations over the internet.


Amazon, Google, Microsoft and 29 other companies signed a letter urging the United States Congress to do something about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; specifically, tech leaders want to see reforms made to Section 702 of the FISA law, which essentially allows the NSA to carry out total digital snooping on U.S. citizens.


Section 702 was part of the NSA secrets leaked by Edward Snowden, the former contractor whose revelations about the U.S. espionage apparatus prompted him to seek asylum in Russia. The section is up for renewal at the end of this year; tech leaders are at odds with the government with regard to mass online surveillance, which takes advantage of the digital infrastructure they have built over many decades.


What Silicon Valley executives would like to see is an overhaul of intelligence collection operations so that they extend privacy safeguards that do not run afoul of the Constitution and personal liberties that Americans are supposed to enjoy. Legal analysts believe that tech giants would be prepared to play hardball with the NSA in the sense that they would take their cases to high courts if Section 702 is not suspended or amended considerably.


According to a report by cNet, Apple was not among the companies whose executives signed the letter addressed to Bob Goodlatte, a Republican Member of Congress who currently leads the House Judiciary Committee. Apple has endured its share of conflict with the government over digital privacy issues; this was made clear by the San Bernardino terrorist attack and the company’s refusal to unlock an iPhone used during the deadly incident. Nowadays, Apple receives thousands of national security orders to turn over iPhone data each year.


The Trump administration has had an uneasy relationship with the intelligence community, and thus it is difficult to forecast scenarios as to the kind of action the White House will take in relation to FISA and other matters related to mass surveillance. On one hand, President Trump has shown sharp disdain over leaks; on the other hand, he has criticized the work of intelligence agencies that may have investigated his electoral campaign.