Tech pressures Congress ahead of Patriot Act fight

Tech pressures Congress ahead of Patriot Act fight
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Trade groups representing nearly every corner of the tech industry are putting pressure on Congress to rein in government surveillance ahead of a new battle over U.S. spying.

In a letter Wednesday, a half-dozen major industry groups called for Congress to end some of the government’s most controversial spying programs, which they claim continue to erode global trust in American tech companies.

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“U.S. technology providers continue to face concerns from global customers regarding the safety and security of their offerings,” the organizations wrote. "In fact, foreign competitors and foreign governments regularly seize on this opportunity to challenge U.S. technological leadership by raising questions about our nation’s surveillance regime.

“The impact of these questions continues to affect the technology sector.”

Companies represented by the groups include some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names, such as Google, Facebook, Apple and IBM.

In particular, they called on lawmakers to end the government’s ability to collect bulk records about people’s communications and to force greater transparency about how government surveillance operates.

Congressional attempts to reform U.S. spying have largely been paused since legislation failed to pass the Senate last year.

But on June 1, three provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire, including the controversial section that the National Security Agency has used to authorize its warrantless collection of phone records about millions of Americans. The deadline has set the stage for a potential battle over what changes to make while reauthorizing the law — or whether it should even be extended at all.

Lawmakers have begun eying a plan to renew the law, but legislation has yet to be officially unveiled.  

The six groups behind Wednesday’s letter to leaders in Congress are TechNet, BSA - The Software Alliance, the Internet Association, the Information Technology Industry Council, the Software and Information Industry Association and the Reform Government Surveillance coalition.