Google Says 2015 Will Be the ‘Moment’ To Reform NSA Spying

A photograph of the outside of the National Security Agency's main headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland.

Trevor Paglen via Creative Time Reports

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A photograph of the outside of the National Security Agency's main headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland.

Despite a crushing defeat this year, the search giant is already preparing to push surveillance reform in Congress next year. By Dustin Volz

Google is already beginning to lay the groundwork for another push next year to rein in government spying ahead of a crucial summer deadline to some of the National Security Agency’s surveillance authority.

The search behemoth this week updated its “Take Action” site with a new page that promises that 2015 “will be our moment” to reform sweeping surveillance programs, exposed last year by fugitive leaker Edward Snowden.

In June of 2015, we have a huge chance to protect Americans from mass surveillance when a key part of the USA Patriot Act is set to expire,” reads the brief petition, which invites users to submit their contact information. “That means we need to be ready to take action this coming year.”

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding how many people had signed the petition.

Core provisions of the post-9/11 Patriot Act are due to sunset on June 1, including the contentious Section 215, which grants the intelligence community much of its authority to sweep up bulk U.S. phone records. But despite the looming deadline, it remains unclear how much momentum surveillance reform will have in a Republican-controlled Congress next year.

The GOP killed a reform package in the Senate last month, as the USA Freedom Act fell two shorts votes of the 60-vote threshold needed to advance. The measure, which would have effectively ended the government’s bulk phone metadata collection, was unable to overcome late-stage opposition from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and others who warned that reining in the NSA could help terrorists kill Americans.

Complicating efforts is a possible splinter that may soon emerge among the diverse array of NSA reform backers. Many privacy advocates argue that the best chance to curb the NSA will be to push to let those Patriot Act provisions expire altogether. Other reformers, however, are reticent to outright jeopardize a counterterrorism measure, especially given continued geopolitical uncertainty in regions such as the Middle East.

The tech lobby has been a vocal and important voice in the ongoing effort to curtail NSA authority. Several Silicon Valley giants—including Google, Facebook, and Yahoo—formed the Reform Government Surveillance coalition in the wake of the Snowden disclosures to advocate for limits on the NSA’s broad spying authority and press for more transparency with customers about government data requests.

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