- 5 June 2017
According to the US media, the FBI is taking steps towards a new surveillance law that could give the FBI service access to the browsing content of any user in the same way telephone records are now available to the authorities.
In short, according to this new law that FBI wants to bring forward, the justice department would be able to access a citizen’s web browsing history, location data and some email records without approval from a judge using a so-called “national security letters” (NSLs).
As a reaction to the federal authorities’ idea, Google, Facebook and Yahoo sent a letter to the Congress warning that they are against the change supported by the FBI in the surveillance law.
“This expansion of the NSL statute has been characterized by some government officials as merely fixing a ‘typo’ in the law,” the companies wrote, according to the Guardian. “In reality, however, it would dramatically expand the ability of the FBI to get sensitive information about users’ online activities without court oversight.”
The biggest problem that these tech giants encounter in this new law is not that they would have to give the users’ personal information to the government, but the fact that they can’t include the procedures in the terms and conditions page. They are forbidden to tell their customers that their data is available to the government. However, their clients will eventually find out on their own casting a shadow of mistrust on the services of Google, Facebook and Yahoo.
The companies also argue that the lack of judicial oversight might also be a problem. Too much power is given to one branch of government, they argue, and make it hard to predict what the government may ask for next.
On the other hand, FBI representatives stated that expanding NSL rules is one of his agencies top legislative priorities. US senators are exploring multiple ways to pass the law tweak this year.