Good Steps to Transparency, Privacy Safeguards

Dean C. Garfield photo

We welcome the constructive steps that President Obama outlined today to improve the transparency and openness of the nation’s surveillance programs.  We not only support greater transparency on the part of government, but also greater discretion on the part of business to be more transparent about their responses to government surveillance requests.  These are important steps not just to increase greater public awareness about the role of surveillance programs in the U.S., but also to ensure that government collection of private data follows specific rules and guidelines.  

The Administration needs to restore trust in and expand the understanding about how these government surveillance programs operate.  Greater transparency will go far.  So will better explanations of the program’s scope and structure, as well as the safeguards in place to protect individual privacy and prevent abuse. 

The tech sector takes seriously our role in protecting our customers’ privacy and protecting their data.  However, the recent discussions around privacy often have merged what should be distinct policy implications of data collection by the private sector versus data collection for government purposes.  These issues need to be kept separate. 

We hope the Administration’s engagement also can occur at an international level, and ensure that efforts are not made to use current events to create barriers to the free flow of data and commerce across national boundaries.  Several nations are accelerating forced localization proposals that would close their borders to U.S.-designed and built technologies.  A recent ITIF study estimates that the U.S. cloud computing industry alone could lose between as much as $35 billion as a result of the recent government surveillance disclosures.  And that’s likely a conservative estimate.  

We will continue to work with the White House and Congress, others in the business community, and leaders of the privacy community to ensure that both privacy and security are achieved.

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