Coalition Urges Senate Not to Restrict Work of Privacy Board to Only U.S. Persons

A group of nearly 50 civil society organizations, companies, trade associations and academics have joined The Constitution Project in asking the Senate to reject a proposal to limit the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board from considering the privacy interests of foreigners.  In a June 24 letter to members of the U.S. Senate, the group said such a limitation would be “detrimental to human rights and to transatlantic trade.”

The provision restricting the PCLOB from considering the privacy and civil liberties impact of national security surveillance programs on anyone other than citizens and lawful permanent residents of the U.S. is part of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 adopted by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in closed session and without public input on May 24.

The group noted in its letter that the PCLOB has indicated it planned to address the impact of surveillance on non-U.S. persons in its next report, which will focus on electronic surveillance conducted under Executive Order 12333 directed largely outside the U.S.  Adoption of the restrictive provision would “bar PCLOB from addressing the rights of non-U.S. persons in that report, even though the surveillance the report will consider has an enormous impact on non-U.S persons, as well as on U.S. persons,” the group wrote.

The letter also noted that adoption of the provision would “undermine the nascent Privacy Shield agreement” that is designed to set privacy rules for data of European Union residents transferred to and processed in the U.S.  “Regardless of one’s view on the sufficiency of the Privacy Shield, the agreement was the product of extensive, delicate negotiations. It relies, in part, on assurances the U.S. made about PCLOB’s role in overseeing the use of surveillance authorities that apply to non-U.S. persons,” the group wrote.

In addition to TCP, some of the organizations signing the letter include American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Democracy & Technology, Computer & Communications Industry Association, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Internet Infrastructure Coalition, New America’s Open Technology Institute and U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.  Some of America’s largest tech companies, including Apple, Google, Intel, Microsoft and Symantec, also joined the letter.

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