Google requests US Congress to update privacy laws

By Sooraj Shah
12 Feb 2014 View Comments
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Google has continued its battle to distance itself from the furore over Edward Snowden's National Security Agency (NSA) revelations, by requesting US Congress to update its privacy laws.

The firm is one of many that were alleged to have knowledge about the surveillance techniques used by the NSA - a suggestion that its chairman Eric Schmidt has categorically denied.

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Google has since joined forces with some of the world's biggest technology firms, such as Apple, Microsoft and Facebook, to win the right to disclose more information on the number of user data requests it receives from the US government, while also proposing several reforms in legislation.

But according to Susan Molinari, Google's vice president of public policy, more needs to be done.

"The revelations about government surveillance practices – both in the US and globally – over the past eight months have sparked a serious and overdue debate about the nature and scope of existing laws and programmes," she said in a blog post.

She mentioned the reforms that Google had suggested, alongside other technology firms, and said that the USA Freedom Act would help to "codify many of these principles". She said Google supports the new act and urges Congress to enact it into law.

However, she said there should also be an update to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), for government entities to require a warrant before they can compel online companies to disclose the content of users' communications.

"Legislation introduced by senators Leahy and Lee in the Senate and representatives Yoder, Graves and Polis in the House would achieve that goal," she said.

"More than 100 companies, trade associations, and consumer groups - and more than 100,000 Americans - have signed on to support this important update to ECPA, which no longer reflects users' reasonable expectations of privacy," she added.

Google was one of many organisations taking part in "The Day We Fight Back", a series of events and awareness campaigns highlighting the need for surveillance reform around the world.

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