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Tech giants demand end to NSA spying, as Patriot Act is set to expire

A technology coalition headed by Apple, Microsoft, and Google urged President Barack Obama and other government officials to end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone call “metadata.” In a letter addressed to the President and other key figures, the coalition, made up of privacy advocates, technology firms, and trade companies, called the NSA program “untenable,” and urged the House to move forward with reforms.

The letter, which was also addressed to high-ranking officials such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner, singled out sections 215 and 214 of the Patriot Act, which have been used to legally justify the NSA’s data collection. The provision, which sunsets on June 1, was first used in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

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“Many of us have differing views on exactly what reforms must be included in any bill reauthorizing USA PATRIOT Act Section 215, which currently serves as the legal basis for the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephone metadata and is set to expire on June 1, 2015. That said, our broad, diverse, and bipartisan coalition believes that the status quo is untenable and that it is urgent that Congress move forward with reform,” the group wrote.

Critics say that the Patriot Act is being used to unjustly collect the phone records of innocent people. “If there were ever a time to reform the NSA, it’s now — because a vote for reauthorization, without comprehensive reform of NSA spying, will very clearly be a vote against the Constitution,” said the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the organizations that signed the letter.

The NSA data collection program has already been the subject of many reform efforts ever since Edward Snowden leaked classified information from the agency in 2013. To date, none have been successful. The most recent attempt, the USA Freedom Act, failed to even move forward to a final vote in the Senate. Last January, the Obama administration also abandoned a plan that would have designated a third party for the task of collecting and storing phone call data.