Digital Privacy

Coalition letter: Concerns about S. 1390, the STRONGER Patents Act of 2017

Dear Senator Coons, Senator Cotton, Senator Durbin and Senator Hirono: The undersigned write this letter to express serious concerns about S. 1390, the STRONGER Patents Act of 2017, which …

How many Americans are swept up in the NSA’s snooping programs?

The following op-ed was co-authored by Arthur Rizer, R Street's national security and justice policy director. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper famously (or infamously) told Congress …

Granting NSA permanent bulk surveillance authority would be a mistake

The following op-ed was co-authored by Ashkhen Kazaryan, an affiliated fellow at TechFreedom. Early last month, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats reneged on a promise that the National Security Agency …

Joint letter to Five Eyes intelligence agencies regarding encryption

In light of public reports about this week’s meeting between officials from your agencies, the undersigned individuals and organizations write to emphasize the importance of national policies that …

A three-step plan to promote consumer privacy

The following op-ed was co-authored by R Street Tech Policy Associate Joe Kane. Congress’ decision to use the little-utilized Congressional Review Act to repeal broadband privacy regulations the Federal …

The next security risk may be your vibrator

The following op-ed was co-authored by Amie Stepanovich, U.S. policy manager and global policy counsel for Access Now.  Until hackers discovered the internet of things, a maker of kitchen appliances didn't …

Theresa May’s plan to regulate the internet won’t stop terrorism; It might make things worse

The following op-ed was co-authored by R Street National Security and Justice Policy Director Arthur Rizer.  In the wake of Saturday's horrific attack on London—the third high-profile terrorist incident …

New internet privacy bill would bring European-style regulations

The following op-ed was co-authored by R Street Research Assistant Joe Kane. As debate over the future of internet regulation drags on, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., chairwoman of …

San Francisco sues Uber in battle over driver privacy

The City of San Francisco filed suit last week against the ridesharing service Uber after the company filed a motion in court to block the release of a …

Do criminal courts threaten privacy more than FISA courts?

The following op-ed was co-authored by Daniel Oglesby, a technology research assistant with the R Street Institute. Privacy advocates long have accused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) of being …

Feds taking social media passwords at the border sets a bad precedent

The following op-ed was co-authored R Street Research Associate Daniel Semelsberger. The Trump administration's plan to require visitors to the United States to hand over their social-media passwords is, when all …

Letter: End FCC Data Retention Regulation

Dear Chairman Pai, Commissioner Clyburn, and Commissioner O’Rielly, More than a year and half ago, a coalition of civil society organizations, legal scholars, technology experts, and EPIC filed a …

Is reform on the horizon for Section 702 surveillance?

The following op-ed was co-authored by Daniel Semelsberger, a research assistant with the R Street Institute. An unappreciated subplot of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s departure as national security advisor …

Watney talks digital privacy with Chad Benson

R Street Research Assistant Caleb Watney was a guest recently on Radio America's "The Chad Benson Show" to discuss Congress' recent move to vacate Federal Communications Commission privacy …

R Street and TechFreedom urge House to vote YES on H.J. Res. 86

Dear Representative, The R Street Institute and TechFreedom urge all Members to vote YES on H.J. Res. 86, a resolution introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) that would nullify …

Senate to FCC: Privacy regulation is not your job

The U.S. Senate narrowly passed a resolution Thursday that would halt Federal Communications Commission efforts to create rules for the way internet service providers use their customers’ personal …

Local laws threaten the global future of augmented reality

The following op-ed was co-authored by Daniel Oglesby, research assistant with the R Street Institute. The intense, if fleeting, popularity of Pokemon Go helped demonstrate the market potential of …

SXSW Roundup: What will AR/VR revolutionize next?

The experiential factor in augmented and virtual reality leads to a more vivid sense of presence and immersion, when compared to other media like television or radio. This …

The Senate should pass the Email Privacy Act without delay

With Congress consumed by political battles, there's still a glimmer of hope for bipartisanship on privacy issues: The House last week passed the Email Privacy Act by unanimous …

Aligning cybersecurity incentives in an interconnected world

In the stop-motion animated short “Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers,” the protagonist Wallace’s alarm clock kicks off a Rube Goldberg-like chain of machines and devices that dress …

CTA previews Innovation Policy Day at SXSW

The Consumer Technology Association welcomed R Street Tech Policy Fellow Anne Hobson to take part in a recent Facebook Live panel to preview the Innovation Policy Day programming …

CBS show ‘Hunted’ spotlights our surveillance nation

I'm no fan of reality TV, but I was sufficiently intrigued by the premise of CBS' "Hunted," which promises $250,000 to any of nine teams of contestants who …

Ian Adams on KVOI in Tucson

R Street Senior Fellow Ian Adams and Mike Shaw of KVOI in Tucson, Arizona, to discuss the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act) Act …

Hobson talks ‘Poképolicy’ on the Tech Policy Podcast

Last summer's megahit game Pokémon Go was many Americans' first introduction to the notion of "augmented reality," in which artificial visuals are superimposed onto the real world. R …

Regulating ‘internet of things’ requires a better definition from lawmakers

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration—the U.S. Department of Commerce agency that advises the White House on telecom policy—published a green paper outlining what it saw as the department’s role …

Cybersecurity in the internet of things is a game of incentives

Cybersecurity was the virtual elephant in the showroom at this month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Attendees of the annual tech trade show, organized by the Consumer …

The intelligence community should be more accountable to Congress

The salvo between President-elect Donald Trump and the U.S. intelligence community continues to intensify. Having downplayed and dismissed unanimous intelligence agency conclusions about Russian involvement in the DNC …

Criminals in 2017 may have to commit crime like it’s 1999

The following op-ed was co-authored by R Street Criminal Justice Director Arthur Rizer.  Las Vegas will be inundated with 150,000 tech geeks this weekend flocking to the Consumer Electronics Expo, …

Don’t demonize bitcoin, blockchain, Tor and other online privacy tools

“Can bitcoin be used for good?” read the headline of an April article in The Atlantic. It’s not just a headline writer’s attempt at provocative rhetoric. The phrases “darkest …

Snapchat spectacles and the creep factor

We're all amateur documentarians now, which is why sunglasses equipped with Wi-Fi-enabled cameras are a natural next step in the world of wearables. Snap Inc.’s Spectacles allow users …

Cybercrime and the war on digital free speech

The internet is increasingly a target for those who want to silence speech. An Oct. 21 cyberattack rendered social media sites like Twitter and Reddit and news sites like …

R Street’s priorities for the next administration

The incoming Trump administration will inherit numerous challenges that must be dealt with in year one, such as overwhelming shortfalls in the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. and debt …

Broad coalition expresses concerns about Yahoo! scanning the emails of its users

Dear Mr. Clapper: The undersigned civil society groups write to express our concerns about recent reports of an order issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that compelled …

Congress should unveil American surveillance

Revelations that Yahoo allegedly scanned hundreds of millions of user emails for the National Security Agency and the FBI underscores the pressing need for Congress to reevaluate federal …

Don’t adopt ‘overregulate ’em all’ strategy on game apps

After 74 days on the market, Pokemon Go last week lost the top revenue spot in Apple's U.S. app store to Clash Royale, although it remains the highest-grossing …

Yahoo! goes cuckoo for the NSA!

In stunning news, a just-published Reuters exclusive purports that Yahoo secretly scanned customer emails on behalf of the National Security Agency. While the public has been made aware …

Where is Pokemon Go-ing?

After 74 days on the market, Pokemon Go this week lost the top revenue spot in Apple’s U.S. app store to Clash Royale, although it remains the highest-grossing …

Reality Check: The regulatory landscape for virtual and augmented reality

The mobile game Pokémon Go burst onto the scene in July 2016 and, within weeks, had acquired an amazing 45 million daily users. Alas, its popularity began to fade just as …

Strengthening congressional oversight of the intelligence community

Strengthening congressional oversight of the intelligence community

The attached white paper is a joint product of the R Street Institute, DemandProgress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and FreedomWorks. The U.S. House of Representatives created the House Permanent …

Microsoft’s leaky ‘boot’ offers another reason to preserve encryption

Gandalf: A Palantír is a dangerous tool, Saruman. Saruman: Why? Why should we fear to use it? Gandalf: They are not all accounted for, the lost Seeing Stones. We do …

Coalition calls for open hearings on proposal to expand FBI surveillance authority

Dear Chairman Chuck Grassley and Chairman Richard Burr, The undersigned civil society organizations and trade associations write to urge you to hold open hearings on the Federal Bureau of …

The ‘no fly, no buy’ gun control policy is actually modern day McCarthyism

The following op-ed was co-authored by Jason Pye, director of communications and the director of justice reform for FreedomWorks. Having watched their Senate counterparts try and fail to get …

Kelsey Smith’s parents watched with hope, but bill named for slain daughter was doomed in Congress

From Kansas City Star: Nathan Leamer, a senior policy analyst for the R Street Institute, a conservative research center in Washington, was driving home on Sunday, May 22, the …

Congress didn’t pass bill named for their slain daughter. Why not?

From San Luis Obispo Tribune: Nathan Leamer, a senior policy analyst for the R Street Institute, a conservative research center in Washington, was driving home on Sunday, May 22, …

Congress didn’t pass bill named for their slain daughter. Why not?

From McClatchyDC: Nathan Leamer, a senior policy analyst for the R Street Institute, a conservative research center in Washington, was driving home on Sunday, May 22, the night before …

We made the message loud and clear: Stop the Rule 41 updates

From Electronic Frontier Foundation: Today, the Internet has come out in full force. Dozens of websites are running the “Reject the Rule 41 Proposal” banner. Over 50 organizations and …

Why the Senate should reject expanding National Security Letters

The following post was co-authored by R Street Internet and Tech Policy Fellow John Arzinos. The U.S. Senate will vote today on the “ECTR Fix” amendment to the Commerce, …

The American Civil Liberties Union rightly rejects the No Fly List for gun control

Even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) thinks there's a problem using the No Fly List to prohibit gun purchases. According to ACLU National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi, "The …

The FBI isn’t Santa Claus: Fix your lists and check them twice

The recent tragedy in Orlando has set off yet another contentious debate over the issue of gun control. On a June 13 conference call Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., …

How Congress should proceed on the Kelsey Smith Act

In June 2007, 18-year-old Kelsey Smith was tragically abducted and murdered in Kansas. For various reasons, it took four days for law enforcement to access the location coordinates …

Should police know your cellphone location anytime they want?

From Alternative Daily: The Kelsey Smith Act would have allowed law enforcement to quickly access cell phone locations when a person is abducted or a life is in danger. …

R Street Institute to Congress: Vote NO on H.R. 4889, the Kelsey Smith Act

The R Street Institute encourages all members to vote no on H.R. 4889, the Kelsey Smith Act. This bill is expected to be considered under suspension of the …

Statement from R Street Institute’s Policy Analyst Nathan Leamer on the unanimous passage of HR 699

WASHINGTON (April 27, 2016) - The R Street Institute is pleased by this strong statement of unanimous support from the House. Most of our lives are on our …

67 organizations and companies to Congress: Support the Email Privacy Act

Dear Representative, We, the undersigned civil society organizations, companies and trade associations, write to express our support for the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699). The Act updates the Electronic …

It’s time for Uber’s regulators to be as transparent as the company is

This post was coauthored by R Street Policy Analyst Nathan Leamer. Recent years have seen a range of internet companies release “transparency reports” that attempt to detail, to the …

R Street urges House Judiciary Committee to pass Email Privacy Act

WASHINGTON (April 13, 2016) – As the House Judiciary Committee moves today to mark up electronic privacy legislation, the R Street Institute believes the manager's amendment forwarded by …

Encryption: Balancing the needs of law enforcement and the Fourth Amendment

My name is Mike Godwin and I’m director of innovation policy and general counsel for the R Street Institute, a free-market public-policy think tank based in Washington. I’m …

Burr-Feinstein anti-crypto proposal would undermine digital security everywhere

We at R Street have known for a while that Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C. and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. were planning to propose anti-encryption legislation that would be truly …

France fines Google for failing to forget

France's data-privacy authority announced today that it will impose a fine on Google for failing adequately to comply with the so-called "right to be forgotten." (For background on …

FBI’s sudden move in Apple case isn’t really a surprise

The following post was co-authored by R Street Outreach Manager Nathan Leamer. After an abrupt “motion to vacate” Monday evening, the U.S. Justice Department has won postponement of …

Paying for a better watchdog

R Street recently signed on to a bipartisan coalition letter, addressed to the chair and ranking member of the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, expressing support for additional …

EU platform regulations may hurt consumers and European startups and lock in dominance of U.S. companies

In the response we at the R Street Institute provided to the European Commission’s survey on “Digital Single Market” regulation of what the commission calls “online platforms,” we …

Digital eyes on the prize

Shortly after the news flurry surrounding the public dispute between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Apple Inc., the American Enterprise Institute’s Gus Hurwitz argued in a Feb. …

Could the former NSA director be encryption’s friend?

It isn’t every day that civil libertarians and national security hawks agree on policy, but the encryption debate has created an unlikely alliance. I have rarely (scratch that…never) found …

Apple’s pro-user, pro-privacy stand gets the issues right

This piece was co-authored by R Street Innovation Policy Director Mike Godwin.    A federal magistrate took the unprecedented step yesterday of issuing a court order for Apple Inc. to …

Is privacy possible in the Internet of Things?

In past policy reports, I’ve supported the right of private-sector companies to collect personal information on individuals who voluntarily agree to disclose it. Whether it was Google, Facebook, …

Leamer talks FISA Section 702

R Street Outreach Manager Nathan Leamer sat down with Evan Swarztrauber, the host of TechFreedom's Tech Policy Podcast, to discuss Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, …

Broad coalition calls to open hearings on FISA Section 702

Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers, The undersigned organizations appreciate the promise you made during the debates on USA Freedom to hold hearings on Section 702 of the …

Broad coalition urges support for H.R. 4350, bipartisan legislation to repeal harmful cybersecurity provisions

Dear Representative, On behalf of civil liberties and government accountability organizations from across the political spectrum, we encourage you to support H.R. 4350, introduced by Reps. Justin Amash, R-Mich., …

Coalition letter to House Oversight Committee on NSA surveillance of Congress

Jan. 14, 2016 The Honorable Jason Chaffetz Chairman, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform 2157 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 The Honorable Elijah Cummings Ranking Member, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform 2471 …

A chat with Congress’ only ex-CIA officer about surveillance

Technology has enabled a dramatic increase in interconnectivity and sharing of new ideas. Yet this increased communication and online engagement has also brought about new and difficult tests …

Last GOP Debate of 2015 marks divide on civil liberties

If Republicans had any questions about which presidential candidates are willing to sacrifice individual liberty for a perceived increase in national security, the last Republican debate of 2015 …

Coalition opposes the Requiring Reporting of Online Terrorist Activity Act

Chairman Charles Grassley Ranking Member Patrick Leahy Committee on the Judiciary U.S. Senate We, the undersigned human rights and civil liberties organizations and trade associations, write to convey our significant concerns with …

Don’t include CISA in omnibus

Today, R Street joined the Niskanen Center, FreedomWorks and TechFreedom in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., opposing any attempt to add CISA (the Cybersecurity Information …

Free-market groups oppose CISA being added to the omnibus package

Dear Speaker Ryan, We, the undersigned free market organizations, wish to express our deep concern over the extra- procedural revision of three bills related to cybersecurity and information sharing: …

Privacy is not the problem

In the wake of last month’s monstrous terrorist attacks in Paris and the recent massacre in San Bernardino, national security hawks wasted no time in declaring their verdict …

Coalition letter to White House and Congress on cyber security

Dear President Barack Obama and Members of Congress, The undersigned organizations urge you to oppose the newly negotiated “conference”  legislation that purports to resolve differences between H.R. 1560, which …

Broad coalition supports ECPA reform

Dear Chairman Grassley, Chairman Goodlatte, Ranking Member Leahy, Ranking Member Conyers and Members of the Committees: We, the undersigned, write in support of a simple principle: that law enforcement …

The many, many, many flaws of CISA

There are two basic problems with the so-called Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, which is scheduled for possible amendment in the Senate on Tuesday. The first is everything the …

Coalition letter supporting Leahy-Franken amendment to CISA

Dear Senator, We, the undersigned open-government, civil-liberty and privacy groups, write in opposition to the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act ("CISA") and to urge passage of the proposed amendments from …

Letter to President Obama on the right to encrypt

As organizations committed to free markets and limited government, we urge your administration to take a clear stand in support of the individual's right to protect his or …

R Street and Third Way urge declassification of electronic surveillance bill records

Dear Chairman Burr, Chairman Nunes, Ranking Member Feinstein & Ranking Member Schiff, As you well know, Congress plays a vital role in overseeing our nation’s intelligence programs. Beginning in …

Of course federal agencies hate search-warrant requirements for email

Unsurprisingly, witnesses who testified today before the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of reforms to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act stressed that the law, passed before the down …

Our inboxes, ourselves

An ancient email privacy law might finally be updated. Congress needs to get it right. A federal law protects some of your email from government snooping without a warrant. …

The business case for Cambodian Internet freedom

Riven by Marxist-inspired genocide only a few decades ago, Cambodia now aspires to both democracy and something like a free market—at least, in theory. But the country’s ruling party, …

The elephant in the room: The GOP’s tech dilemma

Fifteen months ahead of the presidential election, a number of the 17 Republicans vying for their party’s nomination have invested considerable energy courting Silicon Valley. These candidates are …

Is Carly Fiorina Silicon Valley’s friend?

By all accounts, Carly Fiorina gave a strong performance at the Republican Party presidential debates last week. I initially missed the "undercard" event in which she participated, but …

White House offers tepid response on email privacy

As we have previously noted, proposed reforms to the Electronic Communication Privacy Act recently have received increased attention. Congress appears on the verge of finally restoring email privacy …

R Street applauds challenge to French ‘right to be forgotten’ rules

WASHINGTON (July 30, 2015) – The R Street Institute applauded today's request by Google Inc. to the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) of France to …

Je ne suis pas Google

The French government's privacy-regulation agency decided in June to order Google Inc. to remove (or "delist") from all Google websites worldwide – not just those in France or …

6 other federal agencies you don’t want creeping on your life

The Electronic Communication Privacy Act, first passed back in 1986, is badly in need of an update. For instance, current law allows federal civil agencies to obtain any …

Wisconsin Supreme Court slams vicious, partisan ‘John Doe’ probe

For months, conservative donors, activists and groups in Wisconsin were terrorized by partisan district attorneys using loosely interpreted election law to comb through their finances, enter their homes …

Government doesn’t need a ‘golden key’ to our communications

Encryption has a rich history in the United States, dating all the way back to the coded messages smuggled by George Washington’s network of spies. While the technology …

Email privacy bill could move by August recess

With its passage of the USA FREEDOM Act earlier this month, Congress declared a commitment to restore privacy protections that many feel have been violated. But civil libertarians …

Reason.com subpoena is outrageous prosecutorial overreach

Just a day after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Elonis decision in a case centered on online threats, a federal prosecutor issued a grand jury subpoena …

Obama admin asks FISA Court to ignore ruling finding NSA actions illegal

Just a few short weeks ago, our elected legislators were very, very concerned about the future of the National Security Agency's bulk data-collection programs. Some were absolutely convinced that …

Supreme court dodges First Amendment issue, but still puts limits on criminalizing speech

Almost exactly 20 years ago, I first wrote about federal prosecutors' novel effort to prosecute repulsive Internet speech by using 18 USC Sec. 875(c), which prohibits "in interstate …

Leamer talks USA Freedom on Lars Larson Show

R Street Outreach Manager Nathan Leamer appeared on the Lars Larson Show June 2 to discuss the USA Freedom Act. Appearing just moments after the U.S. Senate passed …

More laws should have sunsets

The past weekend's Senate debate over the PATRIOT Act reminds us of the value of placing sunsets in legislation. For years, the National Security Agency had operated far …

R Street praises Senate for passing USA FREEDOM Act

WASHINGTON (June 2, 2015) – The R Street Institute praised the U.S. Senate today for passing the USA FREEDOM Act by a strong vote of 67-32 and for …

A guide through Senate amendments to the USA FREEDOM Act

The attached policy brief was co-authored by R Street Outreach Manager Nathan Leamer. NSA apologists (we sometimes call them “the security hawks”) could use the USA FREEDOM Act as …

DOJ collecting your ‘right-wing’ social media posts

One of the primary contentions of establishment Republicans and Democrats in defense of the National Security Agency's massive data-collection program was that the program was not only free …

A guide through Senate amendments to the USA FREEDOM Act

The following was co-authored by R Street Outreach Manager Nathan Leamer. As most anyone interested now knows, Congress last night allowed Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to sunset. …

R Street encouraged by sunset of Section 215, which will advance lawmakers’ ongoing privacy debate

WASHINGTON (June 1, 2015) – The R Street Institute expressed encouragement over the sunset of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, fueling and expanding the ongoing debate over …

The road less traveled: surveillance reform

Two years ago, major revelations about the National Security Agency’s massive intrusion into the lives of all Americans jumpstarted a renewed national debate about the right to privacy …

Tom Cotton blocks NSA reform measure

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., was instrumental in saving some of Iraq's most precious feline assets, but that's about the only nice thing I can say about Tom Cotton …

It turns out people don’t like when the government spies on them

The past two years have seen a series of revelations about the National Security Agency's systematic mass-surveillance programs, prompting a national debate about the relevance of the Fourth …

R Street praises House for passing USA FREEDOM Act

 WASHINGTON (May 13, 2015) – The R Street Institute praised today's bipartisan vote by the U.S House to pass H.R. 2048, the USA FREEDOM Act. The measure represents an important …

Washington Monthly was warning about domestic digital surveillance…40 years ago

Via Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog, we have a reminder of a December 1975 article in Washington Monthly that warned about the potential for government spooks to use the newfangled …

Second Circuit declares NSA bulk collection illegal

There is exciting breaking news out of the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers the states of Connecticut, Vermont and, most importantly, New York. A three-judge panel …

R Street welcomes introduction of USA FREEDOM Act legislation

WASHINGTON (April 28, 2015) – The R Street Institute welcomed today's introduction of bipartisan legislation intended to curb the National Security Agency's bulk collection of communications records. The USA …

Coalition letter to Senate leadership on USA PATRIOT Act

Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Reid: As organizations and individuals dedicated to free markets and constitutionally limited government, we write to express our strong opposition to the …

Meet the NSA’s ridiculous recycling mascot, ‘Dunk’

The National Security Agency will likely get a gift from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this week: a massive reauthorization of their metadata collection and surveillance program, codified …

Coalition letter on NSA surveillance reform

Dear Chairman Goodlatte, Ranking Member Conyers, Chairman Grassley, and Ranking Member Leahy: We urge you to end mass surveillance of Americans. Among us are civil liberties organizations from across …

Conservative case for surveillance reform Hill briefing

Two years ago, major revelations about the National Security Agency’s massive intrusion into the lives of all Americans kickstarted a national debate about the right to privacy and …

R Street joins broad coalition to reform government surveillance

WASHINGTON (April 8, 2015) – The R Street Institute has joined with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and more than 30 other organizations to launch Fight215.org. This new site …

The conservative case for surveillance reform

This Wednesday, R Street is hosting a panel discussion on the looming battle over government surveillance in America. With key sections of the Patriot Act set to expire May …

Could ridesharing shift to an ad-supported business model?

(This post was co-authored by R Street Western Region Director Ian Adams.) In a recent blog post, tech entrepreneur Andrew Chen discussed what a free, ad-supported service tier for …

NSA was totally going to stop spying until Edward Snowden showed up

Edward Snowden doesn't seem to be enjoying his Russian home - word has it that he's looking to barter a plea deal with the United States in order …

Broad coalition demands NSA surveillance reform

March 25, 2015 We the undersigned represent a wide range of privacy and human rights advocates, technology companies, and trade associations that hold an equally wide range of positions …

R Street applauds introduction of Preserving American Privacy Act

WASHINGTON (March 17, 2015) – The R Street Institute praised Reps. Ted Poe, R‐Tex., and Zoe Lofgren, D-CA,  for reintroducing the Preserving American Privacy Act today. This important legislation …

Oppose the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act

Letter to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from the American Civil Liberties Union, Cause of Action, Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, the Defending Dissent Foundation, …

TNCs, state flood insurance among hot topics at NCOIL spring meeting

For those whose travel plans weren't interrupted by the inclement weather, the spring meeting of the tri-annually convened National Conference of Insurance Legislators – held in Charleston, S.C. …

White House restrictions on data collection imperil innovation economy

In a late Friday news dump, the Obama administration released a dubious plan to create a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.” This proposal would enact a slew of …

Support Montana’s warrant-for-content bill

Dear Austin Knudsen, Debby Barrett, Chuck Hunter, and Jon Sesso: We, the undersigned companies and organizations, are writing to urge speedy consideration and passage of Montana House Bill 444. …

Internet ain’t broke, don’t let AG try to fix it

For all that we complain about the Internet from time to time, the fact is, for the most part, we love the Internet. Yet not all of us …

R Street praises introduction of digital-privacy legislation in both chambers

WASHINGTON (Feb. 4, 2015) – The R Street Institute praised members in both houses of Congress today for introducing reform legislation aimed at improving the privacy of Americans’ …

ECPA letter to U.S. House

January  22,  2015 The Honorable Robert W. Goodlatte Chairman House Judiciary Committee The Honorable John Conyers, Jr. Ranking  Member House  Judiciary  Committee We, the undersigned companies and organizations, are writing to urge speedy consideration of …

Are police radars that ‘see through walls’ as scary as they sound?

In a growing trend begun a few years ago without much public disclosure or debate, at least 50 police departments across the country -- including the FBI and …

50+ organizations and experts call for improved intelligence oversight

WASHINGTON (Dec. 17, 2014) -- Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the R Street Institute, the Sunlight Foundation and 50 additional organizations and individuals today called on …

Big CRomnibus winners: NSA, hungry kids, farting cows

If there was any good news to come out of this weekend's CRomnibus festivities, it was that you can now make any Democrat immediately cringe by implying that …

Don’t let Congress undermine surveillance reform

Eighteen months after the Snowden revelations, Congress has failed to enact surveillance reform. With the improved USA FREEDOM Act not reaching cloture in the Senate and the Amash …

Coalition urges Congress to revive Massie-Lofgren surveillance amendment

The Honorable John Boehner Speaker of the House U.S. House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515 The Honorable Nancy Pelosi House Minority Leader U.S. House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515 December 4, 2014 Dear …

Mail surveillance: The time for secrecy has passed

Recent news that federal authorities approved 49,000 instances of mail surveillance in 2013 is disturbing. Not only was this a huge jump from the usual average number of …

Yes, the government can open your mail without a warrant

By law, first-class mail is sealed against inspection, meaning that government officials may not open it without first getting a warrant from a judge. A citizen would be …

R Street disappointed in Senate’s failure to advance NSA reform

WASHINGTON (Nov. 18, 2014) -- The R Street Institute expressed deep disappointment at a failed procedural vote to advance balanced legislation that would rein in NSA surveillance while …

Fix surveillance reform

If nothing else, the results of the midterm elections made clear that Americans are concerned about the role of government in their lives. And perhaps no issue better …

R Street encourages Senate to advance NSA reform

WASHINGTON (Nov. 18, 2014) -- The R Street Institute encourages the Senate to quickly pass S.2685, the USA FREEDOM Act. This legislation offers a balanced approach to rein in …

Should we have to declare our emails at customs? The ITC says yes

"Threats to the open Internet come from all sides....Today’s threat comes from a patent and international trade agency." - Charles Duan, Public Knowledge The post-Snowden era of digital communication has …

NSA spying harms the economy, as well

Last week, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., hosted a forum in Silicon Valley on NSA spying as a means to drum up support for proposed reform legislation that …

LEADS Act: another small step toward digital privacy

It may take incremental steps to ensure due process against government seizure of online data, but step-by-step protections are better than no protections at all. The Law Enforcement Access …

Constitution Day message to members of Congress

    Dear Congressional Leaders, We write to urge you to bring to the floor S. 607 and H.R. 1852, the bipartisan Leahy-Lee and Yoder-Polis bills updating the Electronic Communications Privacy …

Letter to U.S. Congress on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act

    The Honorable Harry Reid Majority Leader U.S. Senate Washington DC 20510 Dear Leader Reid, We write to urge you to bring to the floor S. 607, the bipartisan Leahy-­Lee bill updating the Electronic …

Letter to Senate on USA FREEDOM Act

    Majority Leader Harry Reid Minority Leader Mitch McConnell U.S. Senate Chairman Patrick J. Leahy Ranking Member Charles E. Grassley U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Dianne Feinstein Vice Chairman …

The ‘right to be forgotten’ and the quagmire of global Internet regulation

Is an open and free Internet a fundamental human right? And if so, how do we enforce it in an international context? These questions have become acutely pressing …

Vote for R Street at SXSW 2015

We've put together four awesome panels for SXSW Interactive. Your vote can help us bring free market ideas to Austin's annual gathering of 30,000 technologists, activists, and entrepreneurs. Please …

R Street joins groups in support of USA FREEDOM Act

WASHINGTON (July 30, 2014) - The R Street Institute today joined a coalition of groups expressing support for the USA FREEDOM Act, which was reintroduced in the Senate this week by …

Coalition urges Congress to support updated USA FREEDOM Act (S. 2685)

Majority Leader Harry Reid Minority Leader Mitch McConnell United States Senate Chairman Patrick J. Leahy Ranking Member Charles E. Grassley U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Dianne …

NAF report quantifies cost of NSA snooping

In the year since Edward Snowden began disclosing the scope of National Security Agency's programs to use cell phone networks, the Internet and various commercial websites to spy …

The national security social contract

Of all the news outlets that covered the mysterious replacement of the U.S. flags on one of the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge, only the New York Post …

Letter to Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: Oppose CISA

June 26, 2014 Chairman Dianne Feinstein U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Washington, DC 20510 Vice Chairman Chambliss U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Washington, DC 20510   Dear Chairman Feinstein, Vice Chairman Chambliss, and Members …

The dangerous proliferation of the ‘right to be forgotten’

Following on last month's ruling by the European Court of Justice that search engines could be forced to take down links that individuals believe infringe their privacy rights, …

Privacy shouldn’t trump free speech

In a decision surprising to many close observers, Europe’s highest court ruled last week that Google must establish a process to receive and vet requests to take down embarrassing search results that …

Letter to Congress on USA FREEDOM Act

Speaker John Boehner Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi United States House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor Minority Whip Steny Hoyer United States House of Representatives Chairman Pete Sessions Ranking Member Louise Slaughter Committee on Rules United States …

Memo to EU: There is no ‘right to be forgotten’

The European Union's highest court has ruled that Internet search engines must give serious consideration to users who request they remove links to any content or article that …

Our selective privacy panic

Somewhere around the time that Google launched its first ad-matching algorithm for Gmail, America and its policymakers became very concerned about privacy on the Internet. Never mind that …

R Street joins coalition urging President Obama to protect online privacy rights of Americans

WASHINGTON (April 29, 2014) -- The R Street Institute, along with a wide-ranging group of non-profit and industry groups, called on President Obama yesterday to support reforming the …

Pushing the White House toward digital privacy

President Barack Obama is scheduled to review federal policies regarding both the corporate and governmental collection, use and retention of citizens' personal data. While this "big data" review could …

Four principles for effective cybersecurity law and policy

Cybercrime is in the news again. The Heartbleed security flaw has damaged the reputation of open source computing—a situation only made worse by reports that the government exploited …

R Street’s Salam with FBI vet Michael German

Over at the Vice Podcast, R Street's Reihan Salam discusses how the FBI has changed since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, with Michael German, a 16-year FBI …

Letter to Congress and White House on bulk data collection

President Barack Obama The White House Attorney General Eric Holder United States Department of Justice Majority Leader Harry Reid Minority Leader Mitch McConnell United States Senate Speaker John Boehner Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi United States House of …

Can Bitcoin outrun the regulators?

Bitcoin is at the cutting edge of innovation. And like most new, potentially transformative ideas, most future job creators, and most disruptive innovations, Bitcoin does not have lobbyists, …

NSA can record every phone call in a foreign country

The NSA spying controversy has found its way back in the news, after a brief respite due to the foreign policy crisis with Russia and coverage of the missing …

NSA surveillance should not be the new normal

It's saying something when National Security Agency data collection becomes a reference point in the sports pages. In an article in this morning's Houston Chronicle, reporter Roy Bragg begins …

FISA requests way more interested in email content than ‘metadata’

In a major step forward for transparency, Google today offered the first batch of disclosures made pursuant to new U.S. Department of Justice rules allowing companies to publish …

It’s time to protect data in the cloud

Tuesday’s State of the Union address affords President Barack Obama another opportunity to address the government’s massive overreach in collecting data about ordinary Americans in the name of …

Obama’s SOTU should address NSA damage to tech sector

WASHINGTON (Jan. 27, 2014) – As the nation awaits President Barack Obama's State of the Union address tomorrow evening, a new paper from the R Street Institute makes …

Has the NSA poisoned the cloud?

The U.S. technology industry enters 2014 facing a backlash to its perceived role as accomplice to a series of National Security Agency surveillance programs, each making extensive use …

Should Snowden get clemency?

Over at the VICE podcast, R Street Senior Fellow Reihan Salam hosts a debate between Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy & Technology …

Congress should put NSA back on target

Before Christmastime, hackers from Eastern Europe loaded malware onto big box store Target's computers, collecting credit card information on millions of people. No one seriously disputes that what these …

R Street welcomes privacy reforms, asks they go further

WASHINGTON (Jan. 17, 2014) – The R Street Institute welcomed today's speech by President Barack Obama as a significant step forward on electronic privacy, but expressed disappointment that …

US privacy law requires operating system upgrade

This may not be obvious but, as a short trip through some of Buzzfeed's less serious listicles will quickly reveal, the world has changed since 1986. Ronald Reagan is …

Upcoming R Street tech policy briefings

Please join us for two days of tech policy briefings followed by a networking happy hour at Capitol Lounge presented by the R Street Institute and Generation Opportunity. …

The problem is NSA overreach, not the technology we use

Blaming big tech companies for enabling our runaway surveillance state is like blaming Toyota or Ford for drunk drivers. It's a dangerous distraction, and it's the wrong strategy …

Tech companies revolt as government spying threatens to wreak havok on U.S. business interests

When tech companies AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo wanted to voice their concerns about government surveillance, they took to a very traditional medium: full …

ECPA reform campaign will get official White House response

Early Thursday morning, with just hours remaining before the cutoff, a WhiteHouse.gov We the People petition to reform ECPA (Electronic Communications Privacy Act) and update privacy laws to …

R Street applauds creation of coalition to reform government surveillance

WASHINGTON (Dec. 9, 2013) – The R Street Institute welcomed today's news that leading private sector technology firms have formed a coalition seeking reform of government surveillance laws …

Join today’s ‘Day of Action’ on electronic privacy

This week, Congress updated one outdated technology law, but they've left a more serious one languishing.  While Congress has renewed the Undetectable Firearms Act, which bans plastic guns, …

When progress trumps privacy

In 1890, two of America’s leading legal minds, Louis Brandeis and Samuel Warren, published an article called "The Right to Privacy" in the Harvard Law Review. Scandalized by …

Federal snooping’s chilling effect on writers, data

The expansion of government surveillance— or, more precisely, our expanding awareness of government surveillance— has had a chilling effect on writers. According to a survey conducted by the PEN …

Overdue patches for privacy law

The furor over National Security Agency spying keeps turning up surveillance ops that are stomach-turning, but legal, thanks to too permissive law.  Some regulations were deliberately written to …

PATRIOT Act author introduces measure to end NSA bulk data collection

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., the author and primary sponsor of the USA PATRIOT Act, announced Wednesday that he would introduce legislation, the USA FREEDOM Act, to end the …

There is reason to feel optimistic on this Constitution Day

Back in 2004, Congress passed an amendment offered by the late Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., to an omnibus spending bill to commemorate the signing of the Constitution and …

Facebook CEO: NSA spying hurting online businesses

The National Security Agency's broad surveillance programs aren't just bad for Americans' privacy, they're also bad for business. That's what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg — a guy who …

Americans have a right to know details of government data requests

Abusive government surveillance practices have violated the privacy and trust of the American people. But they’ve also left many companies who do business online in a lurch about …

The NSA’s war against encryption

New revelations about National Security Agency abuses, which now include everything from industrial espionage to reports that the agency can access most data on our smartphones, seem to …

Enhanced encryption could throw a wrench in NSA mass surveillance

Craig Timberg at the Washington Post has an important story on efforts to keep online communications and user data safe from the prying eyes of Uncle Sam. Timberg …

Five things about the NSA saga you may have missed

It has not been a good couple of weeks for the National Security Agency. Numerous details have emerged about the agency's spying "data acquisition" programs, and there's also …

Being secure in one’s ‘papers’ in a paperless world

If you're pulled over, can the police access your cellphone and look through it without a warrant? The Obama Administration is asking the Supreme Court to say yes, …

The DEA gets in on the secret snooping business

The war on civil liberties continues to intensify. Reuters revealed Monday that the Drug Enforcement Administration has been receiving data from the National Security Agency’s spy program. That …

The White House’s ‘new’ newspeak

"I got tired of cursing the newspaper every morning. I got tired of seeing what was going wrong and not being able to do anything about it."  - …

After failed NSA vote, Rep. Ross points way forward

A proposal to defund the National Security Agency's spying program came close to passage last week. Proposed by Reps. Justin Amash, R-Mich., and John Conyers, D-Mich., the amendment …

Will ECPA reform be carved up like a turkey?

With Congress set to break for its August recess this Friday, Capitol Hill is under pressure to get certain business done, for good or bad. That includes moving …

Coalition supports amendment to defund illegal surveillance

Dear Member of the U.S. House of Representatives: We write to urge you to vote yes on the bipartisan Amash-Conyers amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of …

Civil investigations in the cloud

Increasingly, computer users are turning to cloud storage to hold on to their files and data. They do so not only to have access to these files whenever …

Digital Due Process Coalition letter on civil investigations

We write to express our concerns about a proposal that would grant federal regulatory agencies authority to require web-based email service providers, cloud service providers and other Internet …

5 items in the PRISM report you need to read

Last week, the Congressional Research Service released a report on the National Security Agency's domestic spying programs. Essentially, it is a "What You Need To Know, Mr. Representative" …

Restore the Fourth: Snail mail edition

On the Fourth of July, thousands of protesters took to the streets across America to challenge the National Security Agency’s unconstitutional domestic spying program. Simultaneously, the New York Times' …

Facebook official’s move to NSA should raise eyebrows

Last week, news came to light that former Facebook Chief Security Officer Max Kelley now works for the National Security Agency. The story should raise a few eyebrows …

Don’t mess with Texans’ emails, revisited

Just a week ago, we noted that the Texas Legislature sent a bill to Gov. Rick Perry that would force state law enforcement to get a warrant if …

59 reasons to stop NSA spying

I’m not one for opinion polls; if 64% of Americans said Justin Bieber was a fantastic singer, he would still be genuinely terrible. But with regards to the …

R Street joins coalition to oppose unconstitutional domestic spying

WASHINGTON (June 11, 2013) -– The R Street Institute today joined a coalition of nearly 100 technology firms and civil liberties organizations who are calling on Congress to …

Don’t mess with Texas emails

The Texas Legislature has sent a bill to Gov. Perry's desk that would require a warrant to open any email, no matter how old the email is. Ars Technica has …

Rand Paul and the NSA

In the wake of the revelations about PRISM and National Security Agency spying, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has introduced a bill, S. 1121, or “A bill to stop …

Will NSA-gate push ECPA reform over the finish line?

Last week, civil liberties journalist Glenn Greenwald broke open the story of the National Security Agency grabbing everyone’s call information in a massive surveillance program called PRISM, which …

R Street commends committee passage of electronic privacy bill

WASHINGTON (April 25, 2013) – The R Street Institute today commended the Senate Judiciary Committee for reporting out the most significant update to U.S. electronic privacy law in …

Letter to Senate Judiciary Committee on ECPA Amendments Act

April 22, 2013 The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy Chairman Senate Judiciary Committee The Honorable Charles Grassley Ranking Member Senate Judiciary Committee Dear Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Grassley, We, the undersigned companies and organizations, are writing …

Electronic privacy law is due for an update

As the intense debate over S. 743, the so-called "Marketplace Fairness Act," progresses in the Senate, Internet activists and privacy advocates should remember that the MFA isn’t the …

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