The ongoing revelations about data collection by the National Security Agency (NSA) represent a clear and present danger to U.S. economic security. As we eagerly await tomorrow’s announcement by President Obama, it’s important to note that these NSA revelations have not only accelerated the push for reform in the U.S., but also the promotion of problematic legislation in various countries. Many of these proposed laws would inhibit the free flow of data across borders, force localized data storage and production of technology, and disrupt the current governance model that, to date, has ignited and sustained the incredible success of the Internet as a platform for innovation and economic productivity.
To shift the current trajectory, and motivate constructive action by governments, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), along with the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), issued today a set of seven global principles that build on those recently issued by the most impacted Internet companies, and should guide government policies on data collection from commercial entities. These principles include the need for enhanced transparency, appropriate oversight, and greater multinational collaboration.
This call for action is aimed at constructively widening the reform lens to include important additional considerations, and to incite a debate in countries beyond the U.S. Our nation, like any other, has strong national security interests that must be protected and hence we expect a future where governments will continue to be engaged in national security activities. The evaluation of the reach of those surveillance capabilities, however, must factor in the privacy of law-abiding individuals, as well as economic security. It is only in that context that we can best arrive at the appropriate policy parameters that fully take into account the security benefits, as well as the costs.
Given the potential economic losses, and the punitive action gaining traction in markets like Brazil, China, and within the European Union (EU), it is essential that the U.S. lead the way and resist efforts to balkanize open platforms, including the Internet, that are key to continued transformative innovations and global commerce.
A starting point would be for the U.S. government to take the necessary steps to increase transparency, demystify the operations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), allow for privacy and civil liberty considerations to be a part of the court’s proceedings, and enable meaningful oversight of the nation’s surveillance programs. While proposals have been introduced in Congress and additional steps will be offered by President Obama tomorrow, only through bipartisan engagement, with the active participation and collaboration of stakeholders and thought leaders, will we achieve a re-establishment of both sound public policy, and the public trust.
But, we must not stop there. The work being done here in Washington must also become the catalyst for multinational engagements aimed at motivating other governments to integrate these same considerations into their activities. We can and should strive for advances in national, economic, and personal security on a global scale.