The FBI again wants authority to access Internet browser history and other electronic data in terrorism and spy cases without a warrant, reported the Washington Post
, and privacy advocates who blocked a similar effort six years ago say the new proposal still infringes on Americans' privacy.
Tech giants have lined up on the side of the privacy advocates while the FBI has been urging lawmakers to introduce legislation to allow agents to acquire certain electronic data with a national security letter, which doesn't require a judge's signature, said the Post. FBI Director James B. Comey said the issue is the agency's top legislative priority.
Data accessed would include a user's IP address and the amount of time spent on a website, but other data, such as the text of emails and details about deeper searches within a website would not be included, noted the Post.
Attempts to expand the FBI's authorization are included in a proposed amendment to the ECPA introduced by Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and in the Intelligence Authorization Act, The Register
Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon is among those who oppose the FBI's request.
"This bill takes a hatchet to important protections for Americans’ liberty," Wyden said in a news release
after voting against the Intelligence Authorization Act last month. "This bill would mean more government surveillance of Americans, less due process and less independent oversight of U.S. intelligence agencies. Worse, neither the intelligence agencies, nor the bill’s sponsors have shown any evidence that these changes would do anything to make Americans more secure."
That bill was passed by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
The FBI argues that the data is covered under current laws the same way telephone records are, The Guardian
reported. But tech companies have opposed that interpretation.
On Monday, tech giants including Google, Facebook and Yahoo sent a letter hosted on an ACLU website
to Congress asserting their opposition to "any version of these bills that included such a proposal expanding the government’s ability to access private data without a court order."
"This expansion of the NSL statute has been characterized by some government officials as merely fixing a 'typo' in the law," they said. "In reality, however, it would dramatically expand the ability of the FBI to get sensitive information about users’ online activities without court oversight."
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