By Jennifer Granick on February 11, 2014 at 4:00 am
Today, Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society joins Greenpeace, Mozilla, Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Libertarian Party, and an array of ideologically diverse groups in The Day We Fight Back against mass surveillance.
We are a public interest program, striving to improve both technology and law, and encouraging decision makers to design both as a means to further democratic values. Mass surveillance is incompatible with our mission. Information is power. With unfettered information about everyone, we can be singled out, targeted, marginalized, investigated, discredited, or jailed for pushing for peaceful change. No one may ever know how or why our voices were silenced. So we join The Day We Fight Back to help end mass surveillance, and we hope you will join us, too. This may not be your most important issue. Perhaps you care about freedom of expression, innovation, anti-discrimination, smaller government, gun rights, or the environment. Whatever your issue is, if you want the government to change business as usual, you are playing blindfolded, and the powers that be are in the light. The heroes of your movement are subject to being picked off at any time—for example, their messages sent to the DEA or the IRS, or embarrassing profiles made to discredit them in the eyes of the public—unless and until we resolve this problem.
Last summer, the world learned that the United States’ intelligence agencies are conducting mass surveillance of millions of innocent people--Americans and citizens of other nations. We don’t know the whole story. Surveillance practices are secret, targets are secret, and even some of the laws under which the agencies operate are secret. The government has many techniques for masking the full scope of its information collection. Nevertheless, newspapers report that the National Security Agency obtained 70 million French telephone calls and 60 million Spanish ones in a single 30-day period. In a single day, the agency sucked in 444,743 e-mail address books from Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from Gmail and 22,881 from unspecified other providers. The NSA also collects daily contacts from an estimated 500,000 buddy lists on live-chat services as well as from the inbox displays of Web-based e-mail accounts. It collects approximately 250 million communications and “communications transactions” a year from inside the United States, a collection that includes Americans’ messages and calls with people overseas, as well as improperly collected purely domestic communications the NSA nevertheless keeps. The agency also obtains hundreds of thousands of peoples’ calling records under a law whose primary sponsor says was never conceived of for bulk collection purposes.
Perhaps worse, the United States government actively undermines Internet security by subverting the process for adopting encryption standards and forcing companies to install surveillance back doors.
We want new laws to end mass surveillance and to protect the integrity of digital transmissions. We want the laws to ensure that we—all of us—can live in a truly free society, where innocent people are left alone and free to push for even dramatic political and social change without fear of reprisals. In January 2012, we defeated the SOPA and PIPA censorship legislation with the largest Internet protest in history. Privacy, like free expression, is a foundational part of democracy. It is going to take more than One Day to Fight Back. But today is the day we start. Together, we can do this.
So please, take some time today to educate yourself about the issue, if you aren’t already following it. And contact your legislator using the tools on our website today. Let your representatives know that we reject government policies that seek to observe, collect, and analyze our every digital action. Together, we will make it clear that such behavior is not compatible with democratic governance. Together, if we persist, we will win this fight.
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