DOJ Provides Significant First Step in Surveillance Transparency Improvement

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Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it would allow companies to publicly report more details about the government’s demands for user data under national security authorities. This is a very significant improvement over current law, but the enhanced disclosures still fall short of the recommendations provided by thePresident’s Review Group and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB).   It also falls short of broadly supportive legislative proposals , providing less detailed reports on the number of requests and continuing to prohibit companies from specifying what provision of law authorized the order (for example, Section 702 or 703 of FISA).

Greater transparency is critical not only for the American people, who are entitled to have an informed public debate about the appropriateness of that surveillance, but also for international users of U.S.-based service providers who are concerned about privacy and security.

SIIA views this announcement as a very positive step forward and an indication of the Obama administration’s serious commitment to enhanced transparency.  However, as Congress considers surveillance reform proposals in 2014, we hope to see enactment of transparency measures which will enable U.S. ICT companies to publish additional basic statistics about government demands for user data.

David David LeDuc is Senior Director, Public Policy at SIIA. He focuses on e-commerce, privacy, cyber security, cloud computing, open standards, e-government and information policy. Follow the SIIA public policy team on Twitter at @SIIAPolicy.