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Internet Organizations Ask US House to Limit Access to Search, Browsing History

In a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives, several Internet organizations are urging for an amendment to the surveillance bill known as the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act to prohibit warrantless collection of search and browsing history.

In a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives, several Internet organizations are urging for an amendment to the surveillance bill known as the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act to prohibit warrantless collection of search and browsing history.

Signed by Mozilla Corporation, Engine, Reddit, Reform Government Surveillance, Twitter, i2Coalition, and Patreon, the letter asserts that the Internet browsing and search history provide a detailed picture of a person’s life, and that legislation should ensure that this information is well protected.

“We urge you to explicitly prohibit the warrantless collection of internet search and browsing history when you consider the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act (H.R. 6172),” the letter reads.

Privacy and security are essential to “our economy, our businesses, and the continued growth of the free and open internet,” the signing organizations say, adding that Congress can help preserve user trust by “clearly reaffirming these protections.”

Such privacy concerns are addressed in an amendment introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D – OR) and Senator Steve Daines (R – MT) to H.R. 6172, which aims to expressly prohibit “the use of Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act for the warrantless collection of search and browsing history.” The Senate voted on the amendment earlier this month, but came one vote short of approving it.

The majority of Senate supports the amendment, the same as consumer groups and businesses across America, the letter notes. Broadly supported by members of the House of Representatives too, the provision “should be included if the House reauthorizes the USA FREEDOM Act,” the signing organizations point out.

Effective legal safeguards, they say, are required to protect information from search and browsing history, which may reveal medical conditions, religious beliefs, and personal relationships.

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The organizations also note that such information should only be produced with a warrant, and some of them have already asked for the adoption of a higher standard for this data.

“Congress should take this opportunity to resolve any potential ambiguity and provide strong legal protections for all search and browsing history. […] We respectfully urge you to include the text of the Wyden/Daines amendment as part of the USAFREEDOM Reauthorization Act,” the letter concludes.

Related: Senate Narrowly Rejects New Limits on Internet Surveillance

Related: Senate Votes to Renew Surveillance Powers, Delaying Changes

Related: Twitter Fails to Obtain Permission to Disclose Surveillance Requests

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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