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Flickr Creative Commons

Major tech companies including Facebook, Google and Snap are asking for reforms to a key government surveillance program, according to a letter obtained by Axios.

The ask: Lawmakers would have to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — which is used to capture the web data of foreign citizens outside the United States — before it expires at end of the year. Privacy advocates say that the program can also pick up data of American citizens.

Why it matters: The looming deadline means another fight is coming over the scope of the American surveillance state. Silicon Valley is making its case early.

The companies want Congress to consider reforms to the law, including:

  • Increasing government oversight of parts of the surveillance program and allowing companies to disclose more about the requests they receive under the law.
  • Narrowing a key definition in the law to "reduce the likelihood of collecting information about non-U.S. persons who are not suspected of wrongdoing."

Go deeper: The status of America's surveillance laws will also impact the future of the U.S.-E.U. Privacy Shield agreement, which is central to letting tech companies store European data on stateside servers. So tech companies will want to be careful not to spook the privacy-focused Europeans with overly aggressive lobbying on this issue.

Who signed: Google, Snap, Uber, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon were among the more than 30 companies and advocacy groups who signed on to the letter sent to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte. Apple didn't join them.

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
4 hours ago - Health

Pfizer CEO feels "liberated" after taking COVID vaccine

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tells "Axios on HBO" that he recently received his first of two doses of the company's coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: Bourla told CNBC in December that company polling found that one of the most effective ways to increase confidence in the vaccine was to have the CEO take it.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
4 hours ago - Economy & Business

Ripple CEO: SEC lawsuit is "bad for crypto" in the U.S.

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse tells "Axios on HBO" that if his company loses a lawsuit brought by U.S. regulators, it would put the country at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to cryptocurrencies.

Between the lines: The SEC in December sued Ripple, and Garlinghouse personally, for allegedly selling over $1.3 billion in unregistered securities. Ripple's response is that its cryptocurrency, called XRP, didn't require registration because it's an asset rather than a security.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
4 hours ago - Health

Pfizer CEO: "It will be terrible" if COVID-19 vaccine prices limit access

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told "Axios on HBO" that it "will be terrible for society" if the price of coronavirus vaccines ever prohibits some people from taking them.

Why it matters: Widespread uptake of the vaccine — which might require annual booster shots — will reduce the risk of the virus continuing to spread and mutate, but it's unclear who will pay for future shots or how much they'll cost.