Tomorrow, Tuesday 11 February 2014, is the day when a wide ranging coalition of human rights organizations, privacy advocacy groups and concerned technology companies (such as BoingBoing and Imgur) are issuing a virtual call to arms, demanding that the US government pull back from its headlong rush toward being an Orwellian surveillance state, drop the heinous FISA Improvements Act, and institute a USA Freedom Act that would instead restore at least some the civil liberties for which the United Sates is justly renowned for, but which have been sorely eroded in recent years.
Although primarily targeting the US government, The Day We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance protest encourages the participation of people everywhere (as what happens in the US affects us all), and will ask them ‘to urge appropriate targets to institute privacy protections.’
Unlike in 2012, when major websites such as Wikipedia, Google and Reddit held a blackout, almost certainly causing congress to back down from ratifying the assault on online privacy that was SOPA, tomorrow’s protest is being seen a small but important step in mobilising public opinion in favour of protecting online privacy, and most notably in the short term, raising support for the USA Freedom Act.
In what many might see a rather strange twist of fate, this Act’s main sponsor is Republican politician Jim Sensenbrenner, co-author of the Patriot Act, a horrible piece of Bush-era legislation that provides the legal basis for much of the NSA’s work. Sensenbrenner now claims that things have gone too far, and that the intelligence community have misused their powers when collecting US citizens’ telephone data. By introducing the Bill in the House of Representatives he hopes ‘to put [the NSA’s] metadata program out of business.’
At present it is thought that, with over signed up, the Act will do well in the Republican-majority House of Representatives, but that things will be a different matter in the Senate, where the Democrat majority are unwilling to challenge the Obama administration.
If you are interested in becoming involved then signup on the The Day We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance website, and you will sent details on how you can lobby influential key figures in the debate. There is also code available that you can add to your webpage, and details of real-world events that are being organised around the world timed to co-inside with the online event.
Incidentally, those who doubt the efficacy of such online protests might be interested in reading this study, which shows that grassroots advocacy campaigns do have an effect on US government.