CONGRESS | 17TH DISTRICT | Some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names are becoming increasingly concerned over the breadth of the federal government’s reach into the consumer data that companies, like Apple, Google and Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, LinkedIn and AOL collect.
On Monday, the tech giants sent a letter to President Obama and Congress urging for surveillance reforms at the National Security Agency. Some of those companies also reside in the 17th Congressional District up-for-grabs next year.
The letter urges the federal government to focus on targeted threats while eschewing bulk collection of personal data while seeking greater oversight and transparency of how many users are being subjected to surveillance.
Ro Khanna, Rep. Mike Honda
On Monday, Khanna also called for new reforms at the NSA in light of several reports this summer ushered in by former CIA analyst Edward Snowden detailing the extensive use of private phone and Internet data records of innocent Americans. Honda returned serve later in the day with a opinion piece in the Huffington Post.
“The right to privacy is constitutionally protected and central to the enduring belief that American citizens have in their democracy. But these and other continued revelations about the NSA’s surveillance capabilities have left many in the Bay Area distrustful of Congress’ ability to defend our civil liberties, said Khanna.
“The time has clearly come for far-reaching and transparent reform of our domestic surveillance programs. This will not only increase trust in our government but will also bolster consumer confidence in the innovative companies that have had their data collected by the NSA.”
The role of Silicon Valley in terms of its growing political power and corporate dominance may be a tricky road for each candidate to navigate, but Khanna, in particular. Although, he has avoided special interest contribution, a large amount of his $1.9 million campaign account come from many of the tech leaders listed above. Last week, former presidential candidate Howard Dean endorsed Rep. Mike Honda and described his fellow Democratic opponent, Ro Khanna, as “ corporate-backed.”
Honda noted past votes in opposition of the USA Patriot Act, along with recent surveillance bills Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). “It is vitally important to set reasonable limits on the information being collected to ensure that privacy and civil liberties are preserved in our national security efforts,” said Honda.
There exists growing populist disenchantment with the soaring incomes of techies in the Bay Area while other groups maintain stagnant incomes and high unemployment. Monday’s street theater and demonstration in front of a Google bus ferrying employees from San Francisco to the South Bay only reinforces the growing economic disconnect. It’s a dichotomy Khanna may need to tamper down if Honda continues down a progressive path.
However, even though some may register antipathy towards the tech sector, they also undoubtedly adore their iPhones and iPads, too.