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World Economic Forum Announces Formation of Committee to Study NSA Spying and Other Privacy Issues

TMCnet Feature

January 22, 2014

World Economic Forum Announces Formation of Committee to Study NSA Spying and Other Privacy Issues

By Tracey E. Schelmetic
TMCnet Contributor

While the NSA may be facing challenges at home regarding its spying programs, its headaches over the next few years won’t be limited to domestic ones. When the scandal broke last year, due to confidential information leaked by on-the-run whistleblower Edward Snowden, a former employee of a government contractor that worked for the NSA, the damage wasn’t limited to the U.S. Revelations that information was collected from countless foreign cell phones and other places, up to and including the phones of world leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, outraged more than just Americans.

At the World Economic Forum at Davos, Europeans announced that a major independent commission will be formed to investigate both the existing allegations as modern Internet technologies’ future effects on privacy, censorship and surveillance. The commission, which has a two-year time frame and will be staffed by 25 members who serve as politicians, academics and former intelligence officials, will be helmed by Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, according to the UK newspaper The Guardian. In addition to the activities of the U.S. NSA, the group will also study recent activities by the UK’s equivalent agency, the GCHQ.

"The rapid evolution of the net has been made possible by the open and flexible model by which it has evolved and been governed. But increasingly this is coming under attack,” said Bildt when the announcement was made. "And this is happening as issues of net freedom, net security and net surveillance are increasingly debated. Net freedom is as fundamental as freedom of information and freedom of speech in our societies."

Back in the U.S., the Obama administration recently outlined a series of surveillance reforms it says will curb some of the worst of the NSA’s practices, such as requiring warrants and ceasing to store the data, but it did not promise that the agency will cease the actual practice of collecting bulk “meta data” from Americans’ cell phones, despite the fact that some courts have found the agency has overstepped its limits with the practice. (The administration did promise to cease spying heads of state and the government of allied countries.) U.S. intelligence officials maintain that the practice is necessary to avert terror attacks. It seems probable that the issue will ultimately work its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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