Apple, other tech firms push to curb U.S. government spying on texts, emails

Apple and other large tech companies are mounting a push to limit how U.S. government intelligence agencies collect and view texts, emails, and other personal user data, especially that of American citizens.

(Photo: Tom Tingle/The Republic)
Apple Data Center in Mesa, Arizona (Photo: Tom Tingle/The Republic)

The companies, including Apple, Alphabet, and Meta, want the U.S. Congress to limit Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), as they work to renew the law before it expires at the end of the year, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

Chris Strohm and Emily Birnbaum for Bloomberg News:

There is a growing bipartisan consensus in Congress to not only renew the law but to make changes in response to a series of reports and internal audits documenting abuses. That’s left the tech industry optimistic that broader reforms will get through Congress this time, according to two lobbyists who asked not to be identified relaying internal discussions.

The law, passed by Congress in 2008 in response to revelations of warrantless spying on US citizens by the Bush administration, granted sweeping powers that have been criticized over the years for different reasons. Civil liberties groups think more privacy protections are needed. Former President Donald Trump and his allies claim that spying powers enable intelligence agencies to conspire against conservatives.

“Reforms are needed to ensure dragnet surveillance programs operate within constitutional limits and safeguard American users’ rights, through appropriate transparency, oversight and accountability,” said Matt Schruers, president of the tech trade group Computer & Communications Industry Association, which counts Apple, Google, Meta and Inc. among its members.

Under Section 702, the agencies can compel companies without a warrant to turn over communications, phone records and other data for national security investigations that target non-US citizens living outside the country, even if the communications of American citizens are involved. The information is kept in a database that analysts can access for authorized investigations that have a foreign intelligence purpose.

Social media companies and technology firms have an economic incentive to seek restraints on what the government can force them to do, as their relationship with US agencies was criticized after former government contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed how immense the global spying apparatus had become during the Obama administration.

MacDailyNews Take: U.S. government “intelligence” agencies should have to obtain a warrant supported by probable cause before searching the Section 702 database for information on American citizens (even though that is provably far from foolproof as they can, and will, tell judges whatever they need to tell them in order to obtain a warrant). Pray for wise, moral judges.

No system of mass surveillance has existed in any society that we know of to this point that has not been abused. — Edward Snowden

I never would have agreed to the formulation of the Central Intelligence Agency back in forty-seven, if I had known it would become the American Gestapo. ― Harry S. Truman

View Apple’s government requests for customer data transparency reports here.

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