After Freedom Act Vote Much Must Be Done to Restore Data Privacy

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2015-06-03 Print this article Print
Freedom Act Vote

The answer is that decisions by U.S. District Courts have found that they do, and they've declared the NSL gag orders to be unconstitutional along with the lack of judicial review. So far, the court orders have been ignored.

Continuing the trip down Alice's rabbit hole, it's important to remember that hidden within Section 215 of the Patriot Act is something called the "Grandfather Clause," which allows the continued collection of data for any continuing investigation as long as it was begun before the termination date.

Considering the vast number of investigations, some of them very broad, it's possible that the government can simply use that authority to keep collecting the data it has been collecting, basically forever.

Fortunately the White House, in an effort to encourage the Senate to vote on the USA Freedom Act, said that it wouldn't invoke the Section 215 Grandfather Clause. The idea here was that Senate Majority Leader McConnell couldn't rest on the idea that collection would continue even if the law expired.

So right now we're left with what can best be described as a positive sign. It's clear that the law is changing and that eventually, your electronic communications won't be subject to the indiscriminate bulk collection of metadata. But so much else hasn't changed that it's difficult to see how this actually changes the position of technology companies in the US.

The over-reach of the intelligence services into commerce that was made distressingly clear in the revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden wasn't just about phone metadata and in any case, that's not the issue that's costing U.S. companies the ability to compete in a global market.

What's really hurting U.S. technology companies is the seeming insatiability of U.S. intelligence services for data on anything they wish. This was made very clear by the U.S. Justice Department's continuing legal action trying to force Microsoft into revealing emails belonging to a European national that are stored on a server in Europe, without going through the existing treaties.

As long as the U.S. government rides roughshod over the privacy and the rights of citizens with data collection processes that violate U.S. and international law without consequence, it's hard to see how technology companies will ever be able to freely compete. And this is very much a competition issue. Walk through a major city in Europe and the billboards are everywhere telling companies that they can't trust U.S. providers of IT products and services to respect their privacy or their business information.

Of course, the U.S. government isn't the only nation state trying to rifle through the private data of citizens and corporations, but in this case it's doing it to its own citizens and its own companies.



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