US Senator Ron Wyden (Democrat-Oregon), on Wednesday laid out a new vision for protecting Americans’ basic freedoms, and warned of dangerous consequences if the nation allows unchecked expansion of government surveillance.
“The rapid advances in technology over the past 20 years threaten the rights of every single American more immediately and more personally than most people fully understand,” Wyden said on Wednesday. “For centuries, individual liberty was protected by technological limitations. Gathering real-time personal information about a country’s entire population was impossible. It would have required more resources than any government could muster.”
“Now those physical limitations have largely disappeared,” Wyden said. “Governments around the world now have the technological capability to collect files on every single citizen that would put the Stasi’s work to shame.”
Wyden proposed a New Compact for Privacy and Security in the Digital Age to protect our fundamental rights:
- Protecting strong encryption to safeguard Americans’ private data. Wyden’s Secure Data Act would ban the government from forcing companies to build backdoors or otherwise weaken the security of their products.
- Overhauling the Third Party Doctrine to make clear individuals do not lose their privacy rights just because they share some of their personal information with a particular company.
- Increasing transparency by holding at least three congressional hearings each year on the privacy impacts of surveillance laws, authorities and practices.
- Being on high alert for fresh attempts to undermine checks on government power. Right now the Justice Department is seeking a change to the rules for getting warrants to track computer hackers that would allow DOJ to use a single warrant to remotely access any computer that a suspected hacker is believed to have broken into. This rule change could potentially allow federal investigators to use a single warrant to access millions of computers, and it would treat the victims of the hack the same as the hacker himself.
- Finally, the government must do much more to hire people who understand technology and the implications of weakening digital security and privacy.