US Senate Allows FBI To Look At Your Web History Without Warrant
The US Senate has voted to allow law enforcement agencies to access Americans’ internet browsing data without a warrant.
The vote was for an amendment to the Patriot Act – which was drafted in 2001 to strengthen national security and law enforcement capabilities following the 9/11 terrorist attacks – that would have expressly forbidden the government from accessing peoples’ internet browsing history without a warrant.
It came following the news that a planned addition to the Patriot Act, which is due to be renewed this week, would allow law enforcement to collect Americans’ browsing histories without a warrant.
The proposed addition, which would let Department of Justice officials look through anyone’s browsing history without the approval of a judge, was led by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and Republican Senator Steve Daines attempted to remove the expanded powers from the bill with a bipartisan amendment, but their amendment failed by just one vote on Wednesday, May 13.
The measure needed 60 votes to pass but only got 59 following a lack of attendance on both sides; four senators didn’t vote at all, and at least one would have voted yes, with an aide telling Politico that Patty Murray would have voted yes but the senator was not in Washington, DC, when the vote occurred.
Senator Wyden told Recode there is ‘little information that is more personal than your web browsing history’.
If you know that a person is visiting the website of a mental health professional, or a substance abuse support group, or a particular political organisation, or a particular dating site, you know a tremendous amount of private and personal information about that individual.
Getting access to somebody’s web browsing history is almost like spying on their thoughts. This level of surveillance absolutely ought to require a warrant.
Both Wyden and Daines made speeches on the floor in support for their amendment, with Wyden referencing the current global health crisis and questioning: ‘Is it right, when millions of law-abiding Americans are at home, for their government to be able to spy on their internet searches and their web browsing without a warrant?’
The senator also noted the internet has become, for many, their only connection to the outside world, adding: ‘We are more vulnerable to abusive surveillance than ever before.’
Ultimately though, the Senate voted against the amendment, meaning the FBI now has the power to conduct warrantless web browsing searches.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]