The Global Network Initiative urges President Obama and the U.S. Congress to enact reforms to U.S. national security surveillance laws, policies and practices that would ensure a rights-based approach to national security and help to restore trust in the Internet for users around the world.

Public debate and prospects for reform 

GNI welcomes the public debate in the United States, with all three branches of government—executive, legislative, and judicial— considering reforms to current surveillance practices. Some proposals would begin to limit the scope of surveillance and increase transparency, oversight, and accountability. Others would be harmful, codifying practices around bulk collection of data and allowing surveillance practices to continue to occur that conflict with universal rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

We urge the government to embrace significant reforms that would effectively protect free expression and privacy rights worldwide, consistent with the views of diverse stakeholders who are calling for change, including civil society organizationsICT companiesacademicswriters, and investors, as well as the U.N. General Assembly resolution, “The right to privacy in the digital age,” approved in December 2013.


Building on the recommendations of the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communication Technologies, and reflecting the views of ICT companies, civil society organizations, investors, and academics, GNI recommends:

  1. End the bulk collection of communications metadata. Bulk collection of communications metadata threatens the privacy and freedom of expression rights of people in the United States and abroad, and undermines trust in the security of electronic communications services provided by U.S. companies. This includes bulk collection by governments, and mandates to companies or other third parties to store data that they would otherwise not retain.
  2. Protect the rights of non-Americans. The Review Group recognized the right to privacy of non-U.S. persons under international human rights law, but their recommendations to limit the scope of surveillance against foreigners should be substantially strengthened.
  3. Continue to increase transparency of surveillance practices. Specifically, continue to declassify key legal opinions and documents, place limits on the gag orders imposed on companies who receive FISA orders and national security letters, and allow companies to regularly report statistics reflecting the national security surveillance orders they receive and the number of users specified in those orders.
  4. Support strong encryption and do not subvert security standards. Strong encryption is essential to maintaining the security and privacy of Internet communications and commerce. The U.S. government should support its use and immediately cease sabotaging security standards.