To protest the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance activities, a group of tech companies is banding together to push for tougher website encryption and wider use of privacy tools. It’s not the only high-profile event happening on June 5, the anniversary of the publication of the first Guardian story spurred by the Edward Snowden leaks.
Of course, given that the NSA can crack some of the most sophisticated encryption out there, it’s not clear how much good the protest will do. Still, the group, Fight for the Future, is plowing ahead with a “Reset the Net” campaign, calling websites and Internet users to take steps to make it harder for the NSA to collect their data.
“Folks like the NSA depend on collecting insecure data from tapped fiber,” a promotional video says. “They depend on our mistakes – mistakes we can fix.”
On June 5 the group expects to see announcements from tech companies and websites on plans to push security features. The campaign is also asking websites to run “splash” screens that support the effort. Companies such as Reddit, Imgur and Boing Boing are participating, as is the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other groups.
It’s a day that companies and websites can act to defend Internet users’ rights and for those uses to start protecting themselves, said Evan Greer, the group’s campaign manager. The campaign has been in the works for a while but got a boost when a surveillance bill in the House got so “watered down” that privacy groups withdrew their support, Greer said.
A year after the information from Snowden was released, Greer said Congress hasn’t acted to rein in the agency and doesn’t seem to be poised to do so anytime soon. It’s “high time” for the public to take matters into its own hands, Greer said.
The House passed a surveillance overhaul bill on May 22. CQ Roll Call’s Rob Margetta reported after House passage that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who heads the Senate’s intelligence panel and has “expressed caution about passing bills to curb the NSA’s powers in the past,” has said she’d consider the House measure.
Feinstein’s panel is scheduled to hold a hearing Thursday on changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which governs a lot of the NSA’s activities.
Margetta also wrote that the panel’s ranking Republican, Saxby Chambliss, of Georgia, said the bill would need many changes to pass the Senate “but would not elaborate on what those might be.”