Menu
Tech industry objects to terrorist activity reporting section in US legislation

Tech industry objects to terrorist activity reporting section in US legislation

Industry groups have asked the Senate to delete the section which requires them to report vaguely-defined terrorist activity

Powerful tech industry groups have asked the U.S. Senate to drop a plan to require Internet companies to report terrorist activity on their platforms, as the provision could potentially raise privacy issues for users.

Section 603 of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 would require Internet services companies, who obtain "actual knowledge of any terrorist activity," to provide to the appropriate authorities the "facts or circumstances" of the alleged activities.

Describing "any terrorist activity" as a vague and overbroad term, the Internet Association, Reform Government Surveillance and Internet Infrastructure Coalition have in a letter Wednesday warned that the provision could result in "overbroad reporting to the government, swamping law enforcement with useless information, and potentially raising First Amendment and privacy concerns for the user who posted the item."

"The core term that triggers the reporting mandate, any 'terrorist activity,' is infeasible due to its breadth," wrote the organizations that are backed by large tech companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and Google. "It is not a legal term of art nor is it ever defined in the legislative text."

The proposed reporting obligation will also be different from current mandatory reporting requirements for child sexual abuse imagery under U.S. law, as the content in child pornography is in itself unlawful, usually easy to detect, and is not protected speech under the constitution, according to the letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid. A key senator had earlier compared the provision on terrorist activity to existing provisions on reporting child pornography.

Over 30 civil rights groups and trade bodies also wrote to key senators earlier this week, warning that section 603 would create incentives for Internet services providers to over-report on the activity and communications of their users, just to avoid violating the law.

The facts and circumstances associated with alleged terrorist activities would in some cases include the contents of private communications, such as emails, private messages on social media, files and photos stored on cloud services, "which law enforcement would ordinarily be required to obtain a warrant to access," the groups wrote in a letter on Tuesday.

The provision has faced opposition in the Senate as well. Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, put a hold last week on the bill, saying that he wanted to work with colleagues to revise or remove Section 603 so that the rest of the bill could move forward. The House of Representatives passed a version of the Intelligence Authorization Act in June.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags U.S. SenateInternet AssociationInternet Infrastructure CoalitionReform Government Surveillancesecuritylegislationgovernmentprivacy

Slideshows

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Reseller News looks back on a tumultuous 12 months for the New Zealand channel, assessing the fallout from a year of sizeable industry change. Whether it be local or global mergers and acquisitions, distribution deals or job changes, the channel that started the year differs somewhat to the one set to finish it - Reseller News assesses the key moments that made 2016.​

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016
​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

Hewlett Packard Enterprise honoured its top performing Kiwi partners at the second running of its HPE Partner Awards in New Zealand, held at a glitzy ceremony in Auckland. Recognising excellence across eight categories - from distributors to resellers - the tech giant celebrated its first year as a standalone company, following its official split from HP in 2015.

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel
Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix recently took to the seas for a Christmas Cruise around Sydney Harbour with its Australia and New Zealand staff, customers and partners to celebrate a stellar year for the vendor. With the sun out, they were all smiles and mingled over drinks and food.

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise
Show Comments