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 puts in place some privacy protections, including curbing surveillance of our phone records, and marks a small step toward protecting our rights from invasive government surveillance programs.

Unfortunately, the dangerous Cybersecurity Act of 2015 became law on Dec. 18, 2015 after surveillance proponents snuck it into a must-pass government funding bill. This law encourages companies to monitor users and share our personal data with the government. In exchange, companies receive legal immunity from existing anti-surveillance laws, eliminating user-privacy safeguards. The Free Press Action Fund will fight to repeal this law and advocate for comprehensive surveillance reform in the years ahead.

Blog Posts

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Press Releases

  • Free Press Hails FCC's Landmark Broadband-Privacy Rules

    October 27, 2016
    WASHINGTON — On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to adopt rules giving internet users more choice over whether and how broadband providers use private information. The rules passed on a 3–2 vote, with Chairman Tom Wheeler, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel voting for these strong but sensible privacy safeguards.
  • Free Press Praises FCC's Final Broadband-Privacy Proposal

    October 6, 2016
    WASHINGTON — On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission released key details on the broadband-privacy rules likely to come up for a vote at the agency’s Oct. 27 meeting. The proposal builds on the FCC’s 2015 decision to reclassify broadband access as a telecom service under Title II of the Communications Act.
  • Congress Must Let the FCC Do Its Job and Protect the Privacy of Internet Users

    July 12, 2016
    WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Education convened a hearing to discuss the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed rulemaking on “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services.”
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Resources

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News from Around the Web

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  • 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.

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