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Mozilla Launches Anti-Surveillance Campaign 'StopWatchingUs'

The campaign and petition is sponsored by a "broad coalition of organizations from across the political and technical spectrum."
June 11, 2013, 4:27pm
Image via Flickr Creative Commons

Today, Mozilla – the makers of Firefox and a self-described "non-profit organization dedicated to keeping the power of the Web in people's hands" – launched a campaign called StopWatchingUs to demonstrate its resistance against the recently unveiled NSA government surveillance program.

The campaign was announced on Mozilla's blog this morning, and is sponsored by a "broad coalition of organizations from across the political and technical spectrum." The group desires citizens and other companies to demand full account of what information is being monitored by the government, and has created an online petition addressed to members of Congress.

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The petition states, "this type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy," and that the surveillance infringes upon the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution. The petition's goals include the following:

  • Enact reform this Congress to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity and phone records of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court;
  • Create a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying. This committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance;
  • Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.

The petition includes signatories such as the American Library Association, Greenpeace USA, Guardian Project, the World Wide Web Foundation and RootsAction.org, among others. Mozilla also launched a Twitter account under @stopwatchingus.

In the US, companies like Verizon and Google are required to respect a court order to share information with the government, but Mozilla has not received any request yet. They might in the future as they build server-based services, and this petition may only spark more attention from the government. Or, this petition could be a subtly sinister marketing ploy by Mozilla to gain the trust of those looking to switch to a new web browser. The campaign looks pretty noble, but it wouldn't surprise me if a company manipulated the public's vulnerability and paranoia to move more product.

There have been other petition efforts, including the White House's platform We The People, which asks the president to pardon whistleblower Edward Snowden. This petition currently has 48,000 online signatures, with a goal of 100,000 to be reached by July 9th. StopWatchingUs may just be a statement and a stance, but its better than Mozilla simply ducking its head while every other internet company gets called out for jeopardizing private information.