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Last week, the U.S. Senate rejected a proposal to protect people’s internet browsing data and search history from warrantless government access. The proposal to amend the USA Freedom Reauthorization Act (H.R. 6172) was put to vote and the amendment would have protected internet users from being a target of warrantless searches by the government.
The proposal was presented by Sen. Ron Wyden from Oregon and Sen. Steve Daines from Montana and would have required law enforcement agencies like the FBI to acquire a warrant to access search history and browsing data of a person. In a joint letter, tech companies including Mozilla, Twitter, Reddit, Patreon, and i2 Coalition have urged the government to consider the amendment to protect user privacy.
As leading internet businesses and organizations, we believe privacy and security are essential to our economy, our businesses, and the continued growth of the free and open internet. By clearly reaffirming these protections, Congress can help preserve user trust and facilitate the continued use of the internet as a powerful contributing force for our recovery.
The amendment was rejected citing a provision under the USA Patriot Act that allows law enforcement agencies to snoop through the browser history and web searches without acquiring a warrant. Tech companies, on the other hand, noted that allowing warrantless searches will reveal “detailed portrait of our private lives” such as “medical conditions, religious beliefs, and personal relationships”. They also noted that the information is private and should be constitutionally protected.