(UPDATED) With today’s launch of the international “Day We Fight Back” protest against government surveillance, protest organizers have informed Pando that Google has sent out an email to an untold number of its users asking them to pressure Congress to support a bill to reform the National Security Administration. Protest organizers are hoping the email went out to all 4.5 million people who signed Google’s petition in 2012 against the Stop Online Piracy Act.
The email, which can be read in full below, comes from Google policy manager Derek Slater (who has also tweeted in support of the protest). It declares that “Google is standing up with the web to call for urgent reform” and links users to reformgovernmentsurveillance.com, where users can email or call their Member of Congress to urge them to support the USA Freedom Act. That site is sponsored by Google, AOL, Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo. Notably, in a show of solidarity, the tool used to contact lawmakers on that site is the same tool as the one on the protest organizers’ own site.
In January, Pando reported on the launch of organizing for today’s official “Day We Fight Back.” Back then, it was not clear how many organizations or companies would join the effort, or whether the coalition that famously defeated SOPA in 2012 could be re-mobilized for a new legislative fight. But as of today, more than 5,000 websites, companies and political activist groups are involved in the effort.
NBC News notes that as part of today’s action, “thousands of websites will host a banner urging people to call Congress in opposition to the FISA Improvements Act.” The ACLU calls the act “a dream come true for the NSA” that would “codify the NSA’s unconstitutional call-records program and allow bulk collection of location data from mobile phone users.” Organizers are urging Congress to instead pass the USA Freedom Act, which would enact much tougher restrictions on government surveillance.
UPDATE: Google has posted a formal policy statement on its website in support of “The Day We Fight Back” and the underlying USA Freedom Act. Read that policy statement here.
Here is the Google email:
You’ve heard the revelations about government surveillance practices, both in the U.S. and around the world. They’ve sparked a long-overdue debate about the true scale of government surveillance programs, and the laws that govern them. It’s time to demand a change.
Today, Google is standing up with the web to call for urgent reform.
Google recognizes the very real threats that the U.S. and other countries face today, but we strongly believe that government surveillance programs should operate under a legal framework that has very specific rules, is transparent and accountable to oversight, and keeps users like you safe.
In Congress, the USA Freedom Act would enact many of the principles that Google and other Internet companies, organizations, and users have been demanding. The bill’s sponsors, Representative Sensenbrenner and Senator Leahy, said government surveillance programs “have come at a high cost to Americans’ privacy rights, business interests and standing in the international community.” We couldn’t agree more, and trust you do, too.
Urge your members of Congress to support the USA Freedom Act and reform government surveillance today: