Academics & experts tell Senate to avoid data retention mandates

Today twenty-two professors of law, technology, and human rights sent a letter to Senate leaders urging them to keep data retention out of the USA Freedom (USAF) Act.

Senators Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss, heads of the Senate Intelligence Committee, have publicly spoken in favor of including a data retention mandate in USAF. Though the USA Freedom Act now appears stalled, the coalition organized by Access are taking no chances when it comes to surveillance reform legislation.

Today’s letter addressed Feinstein and Chambliss, along with Senator Patrick Leahy — who introduced the stronger Senate version of the USAF Act — and Senator Charles Grassley. In its letter, the academic coalition urged all senators to consider the many harms of data retention, and to act quickly to advance surveillance reforms:

“At the moment, the bill introduced by Senator Leahy takes steps to improve the legitimacy, transparency, accountability, and proportionality of U.S. intelligence practices. Any mandate requiring internet service providers or phone companies to retain customer data, including metadata, for any length of time would undermine this progress.”

The exercise of civil liberties and freedom of expression online depend on users’ trust in those who store and process their sensitive data. By forcing businesses to retain data, the government threatens user privacy and hampers the political, social, and even creative output of its citizens. These “chilling effects” effectively function as a form of censorship. 

Any retention mandate would also increase risks to user data, stifling innovation and the internet economy. After all, even without a data retention mandate, more than 800 data breaches have been reported over the past year and a half. Forcing ISPs and phone companies to stockpile even more data will only multiply the risks, rendering datasets into sitting ducks for malicious hacking.

Access will continue working with partners to strengthen U.S. surveillance reform legislation, and pay particular attention to data retention mandates, which we’ve tracked in a number of different jurisdictions.

Access coverage of data retention worldwide

Blanket data retention: Law enforcement wants it, but they don’t need it
15 September 2014 | by Raegan MacDonald

Is the UK Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act in breach of EU law?
18 July 2014 | by Estelle Masse, Raegan MacDonald

Access urges MPs to oppose Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (“DRIP”)
15 July 2014 | by Amie Stepanovich

Mexico passes new online surveillance law
9 July 2014 | by Peter Micek

Mo’ data, mo’ problems: Data retention rears ugly head in U.S. surveillance reform debate
25 June 2014 | by Peter Micek, Ella Cheng, Kayla Robinson

EU Court’s ruling and what it means for the future of data retention in Europe
11 April 2014 | by Estelle Masse, Access Brussels Office

Data Retention is NOT here to stay
23 December 2013 | by Raegan MacDonald, Estelle Masse