Who needs the USA Freedom Act when government transparency is just a lawsuit away?
Twitter received fewer than 249 national security requests in the latter half of 2013, according to the Justice Department. The figure as part of the DOJ's response to Twitter's lawsuit that asks for the ability to share more specific data about government requests with its 240 million users.
The lawsuit is part of the technology industry's wider efforts to be allowed to share more data with consumers after they were implicated in National Security Agency surveillance programs detailed in documents leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013.
In addition to filing the lawsuit, Twitter is also part of Reform Government Surveillance, a tech industry group working to convince the government that the public should be more informed about surveillance efforts. It counts Apple, Google, and other companies among its members.
Reform Government Surveillance asked the Senate over the weekend to pass the USA Freedom Act, a bill that would allow tech companies to disclose more information about national security requests -- the same thing Twitter seeks in this lawsuit -- and curb some surveillance programs.
As I explained in a post about Reform Government Surveillance's letter to the Senate and efforts to convince lame-duck Sen. Mark Udall to read the report on the Central Intelligence Agency's post-9/11 torture programs:
The USA Freedom Act has been criticized for not doing enough to curb the NSA’s programs, but reform supporters would rather see a small change now than lose the chance to make any changes when Republicans take control of the government. Asking Udall to read the torture report aloud is similar in that it’s a last-ditch effort to do the right thing before it’s too late.Apparently the USA Freedom Act won't be necessary to encourage transparency. All tech companies will have to do is sue the government and hope the Justice Department continues to display astounding inconsistency in regards to the rules concerning national security requests.
[illustration by Brad Jonas]