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­.s. Computer Scientists Reject Mass Surveillance

By Popular Science

January 29, 2014

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Fifty influential American computer scientists have signed an open letter urging the United States to reject mass surveillance and preserve privacy.

"Every country, including our own, must give intelligence and law-enforcement authorities the means to pursue terrorists and criminals, but we can do so without fundamentally undermining the security that enables commerce, entertainment, personal communication, and other aspects of 21st-century life," the letter says.

Targeted surveillance, which includes intercepting computers before they are delivered and installing hardware that then spies on the user, has strong legal precedence, and fits a regular definition of surveillance. However, bulk collection rests on a legal case decided in the late 1970s. The letter says bulk collection combines the innocent with the guilty, storing the information indefinitely and threatening privacy.

The letter's signatories recommend having the government create sensible limitations on its authority to collect users' data, and that intelligence agencies work under a clear legal framework subject to strong checks and balances.

The group also recommends that governments be transparent about the number and nature of their demands for user information, that transfer of data across borders not be impeded, and that there should be a transparent and robust framework to govern the sharing of information between governments.

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