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500,000 Sign On to “Stop Watching Us”

This Campaign To End Government Spying Has Grown So Big It Might Actually Work

For the most part, it’s hard to get too enthusiastic about various Internet campaigns that try to right the wrongs of this world, particularly the ones working on online privacy.But a new one started two weeks ago is really worth watching. It’s called, ironically enough, Stop Watching Us. This one is special because:

  • It has big, powerful players including Mozilla, the creators of the Firefox browser, and Tim Berners-Lee, the guy that invented the World Wide Web.
  • It’s been attracting new participants like crazy. More than 500,000 people have signed up so far.
  • It’s not just collecting signatures in some kind of lame Internet petition. It is using political campaign tactics to pressure Congress into taking action, sending letters from citizens to their representatives.
  • And, even better, it is getting people to actually get on the phone and call their representatives. (That part is kind of cool. You dial the organization’s number and it automatically finds and routes you to your own representative.)

This week the group sent about 1 million emails to senators and representatives and citizens spent 15,000 minutes talking on the phone to their representative’s offices, the group said.

The goal of the group is simple: It wants to pressure Congress into revealing how much agencies like the NSA are spying on U.S. citizens. Ideally, of course, they want Congress to make the NSA knock it off.

The thought is, if an uprising of citizens could stop the anti-piracy SOPA bill from passing last year, maybe the same tactic could work on government spying.

Naturally, the group is supported by all the usual privacy activists like the ACLU, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Free Software Foundation.

But it has snagged luminaries like Tim Berners-Lee (who is British, by the way), actor John Cusack (who wrote about it on the Huffington Post) and groups like Reddit and TechStars.

So, if you’re upset about how the government might be spying on your phone calls and Internet usage, this group looks like the best way to take action.


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