FBI Wants To Look At Your Browser History - Without A Warrant

Posted: Jun 7 2016, 8:39am CDT | by , Updated: Jun 7 2016, 9:45pm CDT, in News


FBI Wants To Look At Your Browser History - Without a Warrant
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Tech companies and privacy advocates have warned users against new legislation that is going to give the FBI the ability to access "electronic communication transactional records" (ECTRs) without having to get a warrant first in cases of spying and terrorism. ECTRs would give the FBI high-level information as to what sites someone has visited, how much time was spent on those websites, location information, IP addresses, and email metadata.

Currently, in order to gain access to this level, whoever needs it (a special agent, for example) would need to write a "national security letter" (NSL) that does not require a judge's approval.

Before you get too upset, know that ECTRs don't amount to your full browsing history. If you were suspected to be a terrorist, the FBI would only be able to read "I4u.com" and see how long you were on the website. The emails wouldn't include the content but will include metadata so the FBI will know when you are messaging someone and who that someone is.

Nonetheless, this is extremely important to the FBI. The Director of the FBI, James B. Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the agency cannot make requests because it affects their work in "a very, very big and practical way."

He also said that new legislation is basically an autocorrect for the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). This "typo" allowed tech firms to refuse to give the bureau ECTRs. 

The proposal will be considered this week by the Senate Judiciary Committee as an amendment to the ECPA.

The "ECTR" coalition is comprised of tech companies and privacy advocates that do not want to proposed changes. Some of these include Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Foursquare, American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch. They have all signed an open letter warning against what the legislation could do. 

They argued that the expansion of the powers could reveal some of the most "incredibly intimate" details about someone's life. "This information could reveal details about a person's political affiliation, medical conditions, religion, substance abuse history, sexual orientation and ... even his or her movements throughout the day."

The letter also brings light to some of the past abuse of NSLs. It claims that the "vast majority" included gag orders that stopped companies from disclosing their requests. 

Pay attention to what happens later this week, because it may just shape what you'll feel comfortable doing online.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/46" rel="author">Noel Diem</a>
Noel passion is to write about geek culture.




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