Surveillance

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and the subsequent passage of the Patriot Act, U.S. intelligence agencies put in place vast spying programs, sweeping up the phone and electronic communications of virtually all Americans.

The media first reported on these efforts in 2005, and in 2013 whistleblower Edward Snowden confirmed their existence.

The NSA’s spying programs threaten our basic rights to connect, communicate and organize. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and assembly, and the Fourth Amendment guarantees these rights are protected from warrantless search and seizure.

But companies like AT&T, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Verizon are tracking our phone calls and monitoring our emails, Web chats and other online activity — creating giant databases that are ripe for NSA spying. Worse, these companies or others can and do provide information to the government in ways that threaten free expression, privacy and the public interest.

The Free Press Action Fund helped found the Stop Watching Us coalition, which launched a petition calling for NSA accountability and legal reforms to protect our privacy. Close to 600,000 individuals and hundreds of organizations have signed on.

The coalition is urging Congress to form a special committee to investigate and report on the extent of the NSA’s spying. We’re also calling for revisions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and further reform of the Patriot Act to protect against blanket surveillance of Internet activity and phone records of U.S. residents.

On Oct. 26, 2013, the Stop Watching Us Coalition held the largest domestic rally against government spying to date. The Rally Against Mass Surveillance drew prominent speakers and thousands of people to Washington, D.C.

The fight for strong reforms continued throughout 2014 on into 2015, and on June 2, 2015, Congress passed the USA Freedom Act, which President Obama signed into law that same day. The new law curbs surveillance of our phone records and marks a step toward protecting our privacy. But it doesn’t go far enough. The Free Press Action Fund will continue to advocate for more comprehensive reforms in the years ahead.

Blog Posts

  • Cyber Bill Gives Companies Perfect Cover to Gut Your Privacy

    July 28, 2015
    Congress is once again feeling the pressure to push “cybersecurity” legislation. The problem is, the bill they’re laser-focused on is misguided, wouldn’t protect us — and is a huge gift to companies wanting legal cover if and when they choose to violate Americans’ privacy rights.
  • The Year of the Internet Voter

    June 17, 2015
    In the 1996 election it was the soccer mom. In 2004 it was the NASCAR dad. Could 2016 be the year of the Internet voter?
  • The USA Freedom Act Passed! Now What?

    June 3, 2015
    On Tuesday the Senate passed the USA Freedom Act, a surveillance reform bill that reins in some of the powers the NSA has been using to spy on innocent Americans. President Obama signed the bill later that same day.
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News from Around the Web

  • NSA Champion Dianne Feinstein Swoops in to Slow Surveillance Reform

    The Daily Dot
    June 1, 2015

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has introduced legislation that she hopes will gain more traction than the leading reform bill.

    To the dismay of privacy advocates, however, her approach to reauthorizing the USA Patriot Act, the law at the center of government surveillance, eliminates many of the modest reforms found in the leading option, the USA Freedom Act, which passed the House and narrowly failed a recent Senate vote.

  • FCC Vote Could Be Game Changer for Internet Privacy

    Los Angeles Times
    February 27, 2015

    Nearly all discussion of the federal rules for high-speed Internet service approved Thursday has focused on Net Neutrality — the idea that all online content be treated the same.

    Largely overlooked has been another part of the regulatory change: privacy.

  • Proposed Changes to U.S. Data Collection Fall Short of NSA Reformers' Goals

    The Guardian
    February 4, 2015

    The U.S. intelligence community has delivered a limited list of tweaks to how long it can hold information on ordinary citizens and hide secret trawls for data, responding to Barack Obama’s call for reform of its surveillance practices in the wake of revelations about NSA practices.

Learn More

  • Broadband

    Access to high-speed Internet service — also known as broadband — is a basic public necessity, just like water or electricity.

    Yet despite its importance, broadband access in the United States is far from universal. Millions of Americans still stand on the wrong side of the "digital divide," unable to tap into the political, economic and social resources of the Internet.

  • Cable

    Two decades ago, something unusual happened.

    Consumers were irate about their cable bills, which were increasing at nearly three times the rate of inflation. And Congress actually did something — adopting in overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion the 1992 Cable Act. The law resulted in lower cable bills, saving consumers $3 billion in just over a year’s time.

  • Cybersecurity

    Our right to private communications is a cornerstone of American democracy. But with heightened awareness in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, technological advances have continued allowing the government to expand its reach into our private lives via electronic surveillance and data-mining programs. New laws and policies introduced in the last decade have eroded our civil liberties online.

    Congress has a poor track record when it comes to cybersecurity legislation. The bills introduced so far give the government way too much power to intrude on our privacy online.

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good