The Seattle Times

National Security Agency officials made some shocking revelations last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee: They’re able to track individual Americans’ cellphone locations. And there had been 12 known cases of abuse of this power by NSA employees, who’d spied on people for personal reasons.

All of Silicon Valley should be uniting to salvage consumer trust. It is a business issue, but pursuing it can benefit all of society. The right to privacy is a basic freedom that is just as compelling as the need to protect Americans against the threat of a terrorist attack.

Also last week, the Justice Department issued a discouraging response to Google and Yahoo’s request that the NSA let them publicly clarify the tech industry’s role in surveillance, as well as the extent to which the NSA has access to users’ private information.

The Department of Justice said this knowledge “would be invaluable to our adversaries, who could thereby derive a clear picture of where the government’s surveillance efforts are directed.” In other words: Trust us. But it’s become all too clear that the NSA can’t be trusted.

The NSA must not be allowed to go on fishing expeditions through Internet users’ information without showing cause. The less secure people believe their information is, the more they will limit their use of online commerce over time, and a major economic engine for this country will be at risk.

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