This piece by GNI Independent Chair Jermyn Brooks and Policy & Communications Director David Sullivan originally appeared at Guardian Sustainable Business:
The disclosure of secret documents detailing massive government surveillance programs has triggered an outcry around the globe. The bulk collection of US call records and revelations about secret orders that US intelligence agencies make of Internet companies, as well as recent reports of surreptitious siphoning of traffic between company data centers—has shaken the world’s confidence in the electronic networks we rely on to communicate.
Responses to these revelations range from “no-spying” pacts between allies to data localisation requirements that could fundamentally change how the Internet operates. But we are still missing essential information necessary to evaluate these proposals: empirical data on the number of secret national security orders being issued to private companies under specific legal authorities, and the number of users specified in those requests.
Unless we know not only how many of these orders governments make, but also how many companies receive, it will be impossible for individual users of communications services to grasp the scale and scope of surveillance.