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ARL, Coalition Request Public Report on Government Surveillance

image © François Proulx

Yesterday ARL, together with 19 other privacy and civil liberties groups, sent a letter (PDF) to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), calling on the PCLOB to author a public report about surveillance authorities and risks to civil liberties. The coalition sent the letter in advance of the PCLOB’s first-ever public workshop, held today, to discuss the National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs that collect phone records and monitor Internet traffic.

The coalition wrote, “We urge you to review how other authorities, for example national security letter authorities, overlap, expand or complement the specific authorities under sections 215 and 702. As part of its report, the PCLOB should recommend critical reforms to ensure the government surveillance programs include robust safeguards for constitutional rights.”

The data collected by the government show which phone numbers are calling each other, when the calls are made, the duration of the calls, and the frequency with which particular numbers call each other. The letter states that the information collected by the government surveillance programs “can be highly revealing, including demonstrating the patterns of individuals’ daily activities and their associations with others…Extensive collection of such non-content meta-data about individuals threatens both First Amendment rights of free association and Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.” The coalition urged the PCLOB to ask Congress to prohibit this bulk collection of phone metadata.

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 125 research libraries in the US and Canada. Its mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, facilitating the emergence of new roles for research libraries, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations. ARL is on the web at http://www.arl.org/.

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