Congress and High Tech Vendors Move to Block NSA Data Snooping

The U.S. House passed an amendment for curbing two activities of the NSA. The vote comes as welcome news to high tech vendors concerned about data privacy.

25 June 2014


It may soon be a little harder for the National Security Agency, and other intelligence gatherers, to peer through cyber-keyholes at will, without proper authorization.

Last week, the U.S. House overwhelmingly passed a budget amendment for curbing two of the NSA’s more unpopular activities. Broadly speaking, these programs involve snooping through U.S. citizens’ Internet records, as well as inserting security vulnerabilities into high tech vendors’ offerings.

Passing the amendment will let Congress take a “sure step toward shutting the back door on mass surveillance,” its sponsors announced. Naturally, the vote comes as welcome news to high tech vendors, as well as privacy advocates, says a CBS article.

Cutting the Purse Strings

The new verbiage (part of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2015) specifically defunds two programs that enable:

  • The NSA or CIA  to make high tech companies add “back doors” to their products or services for cyber spying
  • The warrantless search of  government databases to review the online communications of U.S. citizens

The amendment must go through the U.S. Senate, and its fate there is unclear. But in any case, this shows that legislators are starting to act as if they were serious about privacy.

NSA and High Tech: Chilled Relations

Congress aside, the high tech and telecom sectors are offering some anti-snooping pushback too, claims the New York Times. Edward Snowden’s revelations about government cyber spying have left a handful of tech and telecom mainstays, including Microsoft and Google, in an awkward position.

For instance, customers may worry that Uncle Sam can spy on them through American-built hardware and software. So, unless the feds can produce a warrant, some of the service providers and vendors said they may refuse to hand over customer data. Previously, the firms complied with informal information requests, says the Times.

Customer Keys to Privacy

Clearly, the battle to maintain privacy will keep heating up. One of the next major trends may be for vendors and service providers to enable customers to perform their own encryption. To that end, Intralinks has announced a new service called “customer managed keys (CMKs).”

Having a solution such as this empowers customers to be in sole control of their data. Sound interesting? For more on CMKs, look at our prior blog.

What do you think about the amendment?

Marc Songini

Marc Songini

Marc Songini has worked in the information technology field for more than 16 years. His roles have included those of journalist, analyst, and marketing communications specialist. He admits that when he started out as a cub high tech reporter, Netscape was still rocking the industry with a wondrous new user interface called a “browser.” During his 10 years with International Data Group (IDG), Marc wrote for NetworkWorld and Computerworld, both award-winning magazines. Marc specializes in cloud, enterprise apps, and figuring out the meaning of being human in an automated world.