Lawmakers introduce bipartisan Surveillance Order Reporting Act

February 3, 2015
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introduced legislation today aimed to shed light on the breadth of overreaching government surveillance programs.

The Surveillance Order Reporting Act will enable companies to publicly estimate the number of surveillance orders they receive from government agencies under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and national security letters, and how many of their users are affected by those demands for information.

Currently, companies are barred from disclosing even basic information about the requests they receive. This lack of information impedes informed public debate, undermines user trust in Internet services, and has led to strained relationships between U.S. companies and international business partners.

"Without an accurate grasp on the scope of surveillance, it's impossible to have an intelligent debate on the issue here in Congress," said Lofgren. "It's clear we need to provide greater transparency to the public and allow Internet and telecommunications companies to preserve global confidence in their services. This bill is a much-needed step in allowing Internet companies to publicly provide information on how many surveillance orders they receive and how many of their users are affected."

"Transparency between the federal government and the American people is critical," said Chaffetz. "Consumers should not have to jump through hoops in order to identify where their personal information is being shared. This legislation will paint a more accurate picture of how each company is sharing information."

The Surveillance Order Reporting Act is designed to authorize companies to release more detailed information to the public while avoiding danger to national security. Specifically, the bill provides that:

  • Internet and telecommunications companies may report an estimated number of surveillance orders received, the estimated number of orders complied with, and the estimated number of users and accounts on whom information is requested or provided.
  • The reports may include the number of users affected by requests that carry over though multiple reporting periods.
  • The numbers reported may be in a range of 100, rounded to the nearest 100s (i.e., 1-100, 100-200, etc.).
  • The reports may be made quarterly or in larger time periods (i.e., annually, semi-annually, etc.)
  • Service providers are not subject to criminal or civil liability for making reports they reasonably believe are authorized by the bill.
  • The bill does not prohibit other disclosures authorized by law.

Click here for a detailed summary of the legislation.

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