The future looks grim for digital privacy and the open Internet in the United States. Even before President Trump took office, Standing Rock water protectors were targeted, while streaming protest actions on social-media and activist networks experienced routine surveillance by police forces across the country. But this administration has signaled a troubling intention to further empower the surveillance state, as well as to deepen its collusion with powerful corporate interests—a terrifying prospect given the already-robust apparatus established under NSA programs like XKeyscore and PRISM (not to mention the revelations by Wikileaks last week of the terrifying extent to which the CIA uses smart technologies to spy). The number of people having their phone searched at the border has skyrocketed, with some visitors reporting that their Facebook profiles were screened for political beliefs. Members of the Trump administration have even reportedly suggested making visitors from certain countries “disclose all websites and social media sites they visit” before entering the United States. Congress is also making some disturbing moves, such as attempting to roll back key privacy protections implemented by the FCC under the Obama administration.
Thankfully, there are people who have long been in the fight and are taking active steps to help safeguard our digital rights. Here are six ways you can get involved:
1. Call or e-mail your congressional representatives, especially if they sit on a committee or working group that deals directly with privacy or surveillance issues, to let them know that digital rights matter to you. The Federal Privacy Council has a legislative membership list of committees and subcommittees related to privacy and surveillance issues, and you can check if your congressional representatives sit on any of them. Whether or not they do, consider raising some specific issues:
a. Oppose the reauthorization of Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which is currently set to expire on December 31, 2017. Section 702 has been used to justify mass surveillance by the NSA, including the collection of phone calls and emails from communications providers. The ACLU has more information on the law.
b. Support the Email Privacy Act. This bipartisan legislation proposes to update and reform the radically outdated ECPA of 1986, which allows the government to intercept and access a wide range of personal information from cell phone providers, search engines, social networking sites, and other websites. The Email Privacy Act is currently in the Senate after easily passing the House of Representatives for the second year in a row. You can read more about the act at the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s website.
c. Stop the Customs and Border Patrol from screening the social media accounts of travelers. EFF has a campaign asking Congress to pass legislation to ensure that border agents have to get a warrant before conducting digital searches.
d. Voice your opposition to a new Congressional Review Act resolution that threatens not only to roll back Obama-era consumer privacy protections that require internet service providers to get customer permission before selling sensitive data, but to bar the FCC from issuing similar protections in the future. Introduced by Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), the resolution requires only a simple majority in both chambers to pass. The media advocacy organization Free Press has a call tool and talking points to help you get in effective touch with your representatives. (UPDATE: This resolution passed in the Senate and is expected to come up for a vote in the House as early as Tuesday, March 28. Click here to access Free Press’s call tool to call your representative.)