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Facebook, Google, and other tech companies ask lawmakers to reform NSA surveillance law

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In a letter sent today to House lawmakers, major tech companies asked for reforms to a legal authority underpinning controversial National Security Agency programs.

Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, which is set to expire at the end of this year, is the legal basis for NSA programs that broadly sweep up electronic communications. The programs are meant to target non-US citizens overseas, although critics have long charged that Americans are unnecessarily caught up in the net. Section 702 is used to authorize the controversial PRISM program, which the NSA uses to collect information from tech companies.

The letter, signed by companies including Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Uber, requests that lawmakers consider changes before reauthorizing 702, such as increasing transparency and oversight, as well as narrowing the amount of information collected under such programs. The companies also asked for more leeway in disclosing national security demands.

Last month, the NSA said it would halt 702 collections that simply mention foreign intelligence targets, a process that has been the subject of major criticism. The letter also requests that those changes to the process be codified by law.

The companies write that the letter is meant “to express our support for reforms to Section 702 that would maintain its utility to the U.S. intelligence community while increasing the program’s privacy protections and transparency.”