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Political Scoreboard

We can protect the Internet, but to do that, we need to know who is helping us and who is working against us. Learn about our scoring system.

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The US Government has turned the Internet into something it was never intended to be: a system for spying on us in our most private moments. By tapping Internet cables, undermining security standards, and getting our data from companies in secret, the National Security Agency has built the largest surveillance apparatus in history and is collecting information on most Internet users.

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Big surveillance makes us more vulnerable than ever.

Ad agencies mine info on our individual vulnerabilities to coerce consumer and political decisions, without our knowledge. Companies leak out our financial information, violate their own privacy agreements and still are offered immunity for sharing our customer data with the NSA. The government and police use counterterrorism resources to spy on our peaceful political protests. People get longer jail time depending on the zip code they live in, even for the same offense. And just imagine what else is happening without our knowledge.

The Internet is integrated into every part of our lives—what we allow to happen with our data will shape the future of our society. We're now on the brink of making big decisions about the kinds of power governments and monopolies have to use this data against our own interests. And, they're moving fast—the US, Britain, France, Singapore, Iran, China, and more, are all moving to pass expansive surveillance laws and sweetening deals for cooperating tech companies (like with full corporate immunity from our laws). We have to draw the line in the sand now.

Corporate Scorecard Methodology

Companies are rated based on their roles in supporting or opposing legislative policies addressing warrantless surveillance of Internet communications and data insecurity. Companies that support the position that would limit surveillance and data insecurity on allthree bills are included on “Team Internet.” Companies that support the position that furthers surveillance and data insecurity on an of the bills are on “Team NSA.” Sources and raw data are here.

Because positions can change, the most recent statement from a company (or a trade group representing them) is used to determine their position. Statements can take the form of any legitimate company communication or action—blog posts, letters to Congress, tweets, trade statements, or anything else. Trade associations and coalitions are assumed to speak for all of their member organizations. Statements from employees and CEOs, unless specifically stated as the company, will not be considered for this because they do not necessarily reflect the corporate position.

Companies that have made their own statement on CISA, separate from their trade groups, are listed higher up in rankings and recognized with a special star next to their name. Companies that have no known position are considered “silent” and categorized with Team NSA.

This scorecard looks at the top tech, software, Internet, and telecom companies by valuation, revenue, and Internet ranking. It also includes other companies that have made efforts to have stances on these three policies.

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Our Scoring System

Project History and Cosponsors

This scorecard is a joint project of Restore The Fourth and Fight for the Future.

The scorecard is objective, rather than qualitative. That is, scores are based on actual votes and legislative action such as co-sponsorships rather than the quality or trustworthiness of legislators' public action or statements on mass surveillance.

Summary of Points Allocations and Grade Boundaries

As further relevant votes come up, they will be added to the points system.

113th Congress (2013-14):

Sponsored or cosponsored S. 1551, IOSRA (Yes=+4) Sponsored or cosponsored FISA Improvements Act (Yes=-4) Sponsored or cosponsored FISA Transparency & Modernization Act (Yes=-4) Sponsored or cosponsored Surveillance State Repeal Act (2014 or 2015) (Yes=+4) Sponsored or cosponsored USA FREEDOM 2014 prior to 2014-05-18 (Yes=+2) Before this date, USA FREEDOM was a substantially stronger piece of legislation, meriting +2 rather than +1. Voted for Conyers/Amash amendment (Yes=+4) Voted for House version of USA FREEDOM 2014 (Yes=-2) This gutted version of USA FREEDOM was weaker than what eventually passed in the 114th Congress, meriting -2 points. Voted for Massie-Lofgren amendment 2014 (Yes = +3)

114th Congress (2015-16):

Sponsored or cosponsored whistleblower protection for IC employees/contractors (Yes=+4) 1st USA FREEDOM 2015 cloture vote (Yes=+1, No=+4 or =-4 conditional on straight reauth vote) Straight reauth (Yes=-3) Sponsored or cosponsored FISA Reform Act (Yes=-3) Amendment 1449 to USA FREEDOM 2015: Data retention (No=+1, Yes=-3) Amendment 1450 to USA FREEDOM 2015: Extend implementation to 1yr (No=+1, Yes=-2) Amendment 1451 to USA FREEDOM 2015: Gut amicus (No=+1, Yes=-3) Final passage USA FREEDOM 2015 (Yes=+1, No=+4 or =-4 conditional on straight reauth vote) House vote on PCNA (Yes=-3, No=+3) House vote on NCPAA (Yes=-2, No=+2) Massie-Lofgren amendment to HR2685: Defund 702 (Yes=+3/No=-3) Massie-Lofgren amendment on HR4870: No Encryption Backdoors (Yes=+3/No=-3) Senate vote for cloture on CISA (Yes=-4, No=+4) Senate vote on Franken amendment to CISA (narrowing definition of cybersecurity threat) (Yes=+2/No=-1) Senate vote on Wyden amendment to CISA (companies must scrub personal data) (Yes=+2/No=-1) Senate vote on Heller amendment to CISA (DHS must scrub personal data) (Yes=+1/No=-1) Senate vote on Coons amendment to CISA (limit information sharing to that necessary to describe or identify a cybersecurity threat) (Yes=+1/No=-1) Senate vote on Cotton amendment (removes liability for bypassing DHS to share data with FBI and Secret Service) (Yes=-2/No=+1) Cosponsored ECPA reform bill in 114th Congress (Yes=+2) Sponsored or cosponsored bill proposing Section 702 reforms in 114th Congress (Yes=+4)

We set the grade boundaries unevenly, because the legislators are themselves distributed unevenly. The buckets are generally narrower in the middle of the distribution than at either end.

Methodological Issues in Allocating Points

Two notable difficulties that arose when formulating the scorecard were how to interpret votes on the USA FREEDOM Act, and how to score amendments.

USA FREEDOM 2015 votes were not a clear signal of being for or against surveillance reform. The USA FREEDOM Act changed the process of surveillance by separating surveillance procedures but many organizations and legislators warned that it preserves and modernizes the same surveillance authorities, while enabling Congress to say it tackled surveillance reform. Therefore, Yes votes are graded at -1. However, because of the nature of the bill, a No vote could mean 1. that the legislator thought the USA FREEDOM Act didn't go nearly far enough or 2. that even very weak reforms are unacceptable there shouldn't be any restrictions of surveillance authorities. Therefore No votes in the Senate were tied to the legislator’s vote on whether to do "straight reauthorization" of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. A Yes on straight reauthorization indicated clearly that they wanted no surveillance reform whatsoever, and therefore that if they then voted No on the USA FREEDOM Act, it was because they believed it went too far. Conversely, a Senator voting No on straight reauthorization and then No on the USA FREEDOM Act likely felt that the USA FREEDOM Act was far too weak. For the former group, we coded a No vote on USA FREEDOM as -4 points; for the latter group, we coded the same vote as +4 points. In the House, we went back to EFF's "Stand Against Spying" scorecard and analyzed the grades of the 88 House members voting against the USA FREEDOM Act, and found that in almost all cases their grades on that prior scorecard were very high. Consequently, all House No votes on USA FREEDOM were coded as +4. For prior votes on the 2014 version of USA FREEDOM, we adopted EFF's approach, and scored the version before it was gutted at +2 and the version after it was gutted at -2.

Scoring amendments to CISA posed complexities. CISA went beyond cybersecurity policies and is a surveillance bill. Many amendments were offered, and that raised the problem that legislators might vote for CISA on cloture (-4) and on final passage (-4), but might vote in favor of all anti-surveillance amendments, and thereby come out ahead on net. We dealt with this by not scoring the Leahy amendment (relating to FOIA exemptions) and by allocating points such that a legislator like this would come out slightly behind on points.

Reporting Accurately on Surveillance Reform

This project threw up several important findings relevant to journalists reporting on surveillance, and to members of the public deciding how to vote and whom to fund.

First, and most importantly, party affiliation is not a guide to your legislator's stance on mass surveillance. We find a few Democrats with Fs and many Republicans with A+. So while not entirely useless, party affiliation is highly unreliable, and journalists should steer clear of identifying a party-based stance on surveillance in their reporting.

Second, reporters should not treat the reforms in the USA FREEDOM Act as being the most radical reform measures in Congress. The scorecard includes many examples of stronger reforms that have garnered substantial support. As we move forward into discussions of reforms to the much more abusive Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, which sunsets in June 2017, it will be worth bearing in mind the substantial, bipartisan set of legislators who never intended reform efforts to stop with the passage of the USA FREEDOM Act.

Third, the data does provide some guidance as to who in Congress is more likely to support reform. There is also usually substantial variation within states that argues against easy conclusions. In key 2016 races around the country, the candidates running from both parties have sharply different positions on surveillance, and we have no reason to suppose that this will change in future cycles.

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