Engine Supports Pro-Privacy Online Surveillance Reforms

Engine applauds the efforts of lawmakers -- including members of the House Judiciary Committee and Sens. Patrick Leahy and Mike Lee -- for pushing legislation that bolsters privacy, transparency, and oversight protections in an expiring online surveillance law.

Because of the Internet, today’s economy is a global one, and U.S. startups are able to tap into that potential to grow their businesses at home. A small, young startup anywhere in the U.S. can easily grow its user base abroad without having to invest in infrastructure in each country it hopes to do business in.

But those small, young startups without deep pockets or legal resources are uniquely at risk when other countries put up trade barriers -- even in the name of online privacy -- that threaten to cut off access to users overseas. That’s why Congress should be deliberate when considering policies that impact the privacy of users abroad and could lead to trade barriers that hurt the small companies that make up the U.S. startup ecosystem.

This is especially true as Congress considers reauthorizing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a law that governs online surveillance programs including PRISM and Upstream and is set to expire at the end of this year. While much of the debate has rightly focused on the national security and civil liberties implications of the law, lawmakers should take into account the impact this debate will have on the Internet-enabled businesses run by their constituents.

Some lawmakers are already doing that. We applaud the efforts of House Judiciary Committee members to move forward the USA Liberty Act, a bill that makes some of the necessary changes to improve the privacy, transparency, and oversight around Section 702 surveillance. If that bill progresses, we would welcome changes to make its reforms stronger. We also appreciate Sens. Patrick Leahy and Mike Lee for introducing a version of the USA Liberty Act that goes further in making pro-privacy changes and the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers behind the USA RIGHTS Act, the most aggressive reform proposal.

The world is watching as Congress debates this online privacy issue. Failing to respond to the clearly articulated concerns by officials abroad, including in Europe, will ultimately harm the engine of economic growth that is the U.S. startup ecosystem.