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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

July 18, 2013 at 1:36 PM

Larsen’s bill would let Microsoft divulge scope of surveillance data collection

WASHINGTON — It won’t ban the kind of secret collection of emails and messages by the National Security Agency that was revealed by the spy agency’s former contractor, Edward Snowden.

But a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, Thursday would lift the legal gag order on companies on how much and what type of customer data they turn over to federal surveillance agencies.

Larsen’s Government Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013 joins a growing list of legislation offered in the wake of Snowden’s disclosure of widespread data mining that has ensnared information about an unknown number of Americans with no connection to terrorism.

The bill is one attempt to shed light “so that customers using Microsoft, Facebook and Google and others are able to know when data is being taken by the government,” according to Larsen’s spokesman, Bryan Thomas. “Rep. Larsen will be the first to say that his bill is not designed to fix everything of concern with the surveillance programs.”

Tech companies have been criticized by civil liberties and privacy advocates for complying with national-security requests from the government. Larsen consulted with Microsoft and other groups in writing the bill.

“Microsoft supports the goals of the legislation,”  Fred Humphries, the company’s vice president for U.S. government affairs, said in a statement.

Larsen initially introduced the bill with no co-sponsors. By Thursday afternoon, he picked up support from  Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., and hoped to get more.

Lawmakers have rolled out several other bills to curb domestic spying. Democratic Reps. Suzan DelBene of Medina and Jim McDermott of Seattle, for instance, are among 42 House members backing the so-called LIBERT-E Act, which would amend the Patriot Act to restrict government data collection only to material facts involving individuals under  investigation.

Comments | More in Congress, U.S. House of Representatives | Topics: Microsoft, National Security Agency, Rick Larsen


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