Over 50 Groups Demand Internet Browsing History Protections in House FISA Bill

May 18, 2020 4:15 am

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives must protect Americans’ online search and browsing history from warrantless government spying, over 50 companies and civil rights groups demanded in a letter to Congress today. The groups include the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, FreedomWorks, and Demand Progress.

Last week, the U.S. Senate passed the USA Freedom Reauthorization Act, which would renew expired government surveillance powers. The legislation must now go back to the House for consideration.

While the Senate overwhelmingly supported an amendment led by Sens. Ron Wyden and Steve Daines to the legislation that would prevent the government from spying on people’s online search and browsing histories without probable cause, the amendment fell just one vote short of the needed 60-vote threshold. At least two senators who missed the vote had indicated they would have supported the amendment.

That all senators did not show up to vote is not good reason for a failure to protect Americans’ privacy rights, the groups note. They urge House leadership to move the Senate-passed surveillance reauthorization bill with the inclusion of the Wyden-Daines amendment. The Senate-passed version of the bill was an improvement over the original version of the legislation, including another amendment led by Sens. Mike Lee and Patrick Leahy that strengthened the role of the independent “friend-of-the-court” to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Below is comment from ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Neema Singh Guliani:

“Search and web browsing history provide a window into some of the most sensitive aspects of our lives — revealing everything from political views to potential medical conditions. This information should not be collected without a warrant. The Senate vote shows there is overwhelming support for this important reform, which House leadership should include in the Senate-passed version of the bill.”

The letter, which remains open for signatures, can be found here: https://www.aclu.org/coalition-letter-house-leadership-concerning-wyden-daines-amendment-usa-freedom-reauthorization-act.

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