Apple, Google, and several other Internet and technology companies are in a race against the clock to get the Senate to approve a bill that will end the NSA’s bulk data collection programs. Known as the USA Freedom Act, S. 2685, the bill aims to stop the government’s collection and storage of the electronic communications of U.S. citizens who have not been accused of any wrongdoing. As noted by Bloomberg, supporters of the bill are hoping to get it passed on November 18, to ensure that it becomes law before the Republican majority takes control of the Senate. Many Republicans support the current surveillance programs and there are fears that the bill would not be passed in a Republican-dominated Senate.
For millions of ordinary U.S. citizens, their right to privacy is at stake. Reform Government Surveillance, a coalition of tech companies that includes Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and many others, recently sent an open letter to the Senate that urged passage of the bill in order to protect “the rights of the individual” and “the freedoms we all cherish.”
However, for the tech companies, there is also billions of dollars at stake, as foreign governments and businesses shy away from American tech companies due to concerns about spying. These concerns were highlighted in another open letter sent to Senator Mitch McConnell from Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, a trade organization whose members include many of the same tech companies that are part of the Reform Government Surveillance coalition. Read more