Sen. Franken Introduces Info Collection Transparency Bill

Would Force Government to Reveal How Many People Had Info Collected under FISA, PATRIOT Act Programs

Taking up the standard of a coalition of Internet companies and public interst groups, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has introduced a bill that would require more transparency around government collection of broadband and phone info.

"The Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013 would expand and improve ongoing government reporting about programs under the PATRIOT Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that have been the subject of controversy in recent weeks," Franken's office said Thursday in announcing the bill.

Franken signaled that in a hearing Wednesday (July 31) in the Senate Judiciary Committee on oversight of FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] programs. Franken chairs the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law.

At the hearing, Franken said he believed the info collection programs protected the country and had saved lives. But he also said he thought there was a "critical problem" and that was a lack of transparency.

He said the government has to properly balance protecting the country and protecting its citizen's privacy. "When almost everything about these programs is secret," he said, the public can't know whether it is getting that balance right. He said that was bad for privacy and democracy

Franken's bill would force the government to disclose how many people had had their info collected, and how many had info reviewed by federal agents. It would also allow private companies to provide aggregate figures on how many requests for info they had received.

He said the bill followed a letter to the president last week from a coalition of 63 Internet and computer companies and public interest groups calling for those measures.

The bill would require the government to report annually on:

•" The number of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders issued under key provisions of the PATRIOT Act and FISA;

• "The number of searches run on that data, including the number of searches run based on data from American citizens and permanent residents;

• "The general categories of information collected;

• "The number of American citizens and permanent residents whose information was collected under the categories and;

• "The number of American citizens and permanent residents whose information was actually reviewed by federal agents.

It would allow companies (it would be voluntary)  to disclose:

• "The number of orders they received and complied with;

• 'The general categories of information they produced; and

• 'The number of users whose information was produced in the categories."