Earlier this morning, the Niskanen Center joined with technology companies, trade associations, and privacy organizations to urge lawmakers to curb the use of mass data collection. In a letter organized by the New America Foundation, the broad coalition of businesses and civil society groups call on Congress and the Obama Administration to include civil liberties protections in any bill that would reauthorize PATRIOT Act Section 215, the provision of the law which serves as the legal basis for the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephone metadata and which is set to expire on June 1, 2015.

As a baseline, the letter states that any legislative or administrative effort to reform national surveillance laws must include the following:

  • There must be a clear, strong, and effective end to bulk collection practices under the USA PATRIOT Act, including under the Section 215 records authority and the Section 214 authority regarding pen registers and trap & trace devices. Any collection that does occur under those authorities should have appropriate safeguards in place to protect privacy and users’ rights.
  • The bill must contain transparency and accountability mechanisms for both government and company reporting, as well as an appropriate declassification regime for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court decisions.

From the Washington Post‘s coverage of the letter:

“We know that there are some in Congress who think that they can get away with reauthorizing the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act without any reforms at all,” said Kevin Bankston, policy director of New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, a privacy group that organized the effort. “This letter draws a line in the sand that makes clear that the privacy community and the Internet industry do not intend to let that happen without a fight.”

Read the whole letter here.