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Today, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and House Judiciary oversight leader Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) introduced the USA Freedom Act to end the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, install a special advocate at the country’s surveillance court, and increase transparency for government agencies and online service providers. ThoughtWorks, a global technology firm, endorsed the bill as an important first step towards curbing NSA overreach and ending mass surveillance and released the letter below from President and Chief Operating Officer Craig Gorsline to members of Congress calling for urgent action to reign in the NSA:

Craig Gorsline, ThoughtWorks President and Chief Operating Officer, opens his letter by stating:

“At ThoughtWorks, we have witnessed the adverse effects of the National Security Agency interception of data from Internet transmissions and data centers first-hand and have been involved in many conversations concerning the future of our industry should this unauthorized blanket surveillance be continued without proper transparency and oversight.  The government’s sweeping, capricious spying is causing businesses to reconsider the use of many efficient, cost-effective technologies that have become commonplace in recent years, because the NSA may intercept their data, or their customers’ data, during transmission or while at rest, in data centers. This practice threatens productivity, it is bad for business and Congress should end it.”

There are alternatives to using the Internet and Mr. Gorsline further elaborates on the ripple effect that NSA spying will have on businesses:

“People pay for privacy all the time.  They put up curtains.  They tint their car windows.  There are several companies that promise private email, and people pay for that. Now that people know that every email and every Internet transaction and interaction is being intercepted some people will pay for privacy by avoiding email, shopping in person and going to the library to do research. Since much of the benefit of the Internet depends on “network effects,” if even a small percentage of people stop using the Internet the impact to network value and efficiency is significant. A world in which everyone is spied upon when they use the Internet is a less collaborative, less productive, less rich world.” 

Mr. Gorsline closes his letter by stating that Internet users who have unknowingly been the subject of this sweeping surveillance program are looking to Congress to set the stage for meaningful reform that will restore the confidence of the American people:

“The trust that has been destroyed by the NSA's activities will take a long time to regain and will require sustained global efforts across politics, law and technology. The USA Freedom Act is an important first step that will demonstrate that Congress is willing to rein in mass surveillance, defend privacy rights and remove this threat to efficiency, productivity and innovation.”

ThoughtWorks co-sponsored the recent StopWatching.Us coalition rally last Saturday, October 26, the anniversary of the signing of the USA PATRIOT Act, that brought thousands to the nation’s capital to demand surveillance law reform—demanding Congress investigate the NSA’s mass surveillance program, institute needed reforms, and hold responsible parties accountable for misleading lawmakers and the American people—culminating in a petition delivery signed by over 500,000.

For more information on ThoughtWorks’ letter to Congress or the recent StopWatching.Us rally, please contact us at info-us@thoughtworks.com.

Read the full letter here

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