Tech Group Gives Mixed Review of U.S. Privacy

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By George R. Lynch

Feb. 9 — The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) Feb. 9 expressed concern over the U.S. government's effort to enlist technology companies to monitor user content for terrorism activity.

During its annual press briefing, the CDT staff also praised the White House's announced establishment of a Federal Privacy Council.

The CDT was critical of the idea that companies invest huge amounts of resources in “conducting fine grained contextual analysis” to identify social media accounts that are promoting ISIS and which accounts are merely discussing world events isn't the best use of company resources, said Emma Llanso, director of CDT's Free Expression Project. The best role for companies is to support organizations that are focused on counter speech and counter narratives and support training and support for those organizations, she said.

A CDT staffer did, however, say that the Obama Administration's executive order announcing the creation of a Federal Privacy Council, an interagency council of senior privacy officials, “an important step forward for formalizing privacy oversight in the federal government.”

A range of other issues were discussed, including encryption, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the newly-agreed European Union-U.S. Privacy Shield, which replaces the invalidated U.S.-EU Safe Harbor .

CDT staffers noted the rare unanimity of the technology community in opposing mandatory back doors for encryption. “Encryption has become so central to the Internet, and the Internet has become so central to our lives, that it's hard to imagine a situation where we turn back the clock,” said Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at CDT.

To contact the reporter on this story: George R. Lynch in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jimmy H. Koo at

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