Mozilla, Reddit, Twitter call on Congress to protect your browsing privacy


Privacy advocates are urging the House of Representatives to pass a law that would require the FBI to obtain a warrant to view your search history.

Angela Lang/CNET

A group of technology companies is calling on Congress to protect your browser history, which could be obtained without a search warrant by the FBI unless lawmakers pass legislation preventing it. 

On May 13, the US Senate rejected an amendment to the USA Freedom Reauthorization Act that would require the government to obtain a warrant before searching through Americans’ browsing and search histories. The bipartisan amendment, proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, and Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, failed to pass by one vote. 

Now privacy advocates and tech companies are calling on the House of Representatives to consider those protections. Mozilla, Reddit, Twitter and Patreon, along with organizations including Reform Government Surveillance, Engine and i2Coalition, signed a letter Friday requesting that House leaders include the Wyden and Daines amendment. 

“Our users demand that we serve as responsible stewards of their private information, and our industry is predicated on that trust,” the letter says. “Americans deserve to have their online searches and browsing kept private, and only available to the government pursuant to a warrant.”

Under the USA Freedom Reauthorization Act, Congress has been looking at restoring government surveillance powers that expired in March with the Patriot Act. Lawmakers have been adding provisions onto the legislation, like an amendment that would require outside legal experts to provide insight on privacy and civil liberties issues to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. 

The bill was sent to the House of Representatives on May 14, without the Wyden-Daines amendment. If the bill becomes law, it gives the FBI the ability to view Americans’ web browser history without a warrant. 

The group of tech companies isn’t the only one calling for the House to implement privacy protections. More than 50 civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Fight for the Future and Human Rights Watch, as well as privacy advocates like DuckDuckGo and the Center for Democracy & Technology, signed a letter on May 18 to the House’s leaders to adopt this protection.  

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