Mozilla, Twitter among others vouch for prohibition of warrantless collection of internet data

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on May 25, 2020

A group of seven internet companies have written to the United States House of Representatives urging them to address the issue of warrantless collection of internet search and browsing history.

Mozilla, Engine, Reddit, Reform Government Surveillance, Twitter, i2Coalition, and Patreon have written to the House of Representatives to consider the issue and prohibit the warrantless collection of such data when they consider the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020 this week.

“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) next week. 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,” the letter read.

“Unfortunately, too much search and browsing history still is collected and stored around the Web. We believe this data deserves strong legal protections when the government seeks access to it, but in many cases that protection is uncertain,” Mozilla wrote in an official blog post.

The letter also referred to an amendment that the house had previously considered. The amendment introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D - OR) and Senator Steve Daines (R - MT) to H.R. 6172 would have “expressly prohibited the use of Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act for the warrantless collection of search and browsing history.”

The companies are raising these concerns considering the sensitive nature of certain data that can be collected as part of search and browsing history. This could include data on medical conditions, religious beliefs, and personal relationships, and it should be protected by effective legal safeguards.

“Some of us do not collect this information; some of us have pressed the courts to adopt a higher standard for this data; all of us believe this information should only be produced with a warrant. Congress should take this opportunity to resolve any potential ambiguity and provide strong legal protections for all search and browsing history,” the companies said.

Published on May 25, 2020

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