The United States government has recently tackled a sensitive issue on the rights of Americans to protect their privacy on the Internet. On May 13, the U.S. Senate rejected an amendment that would require the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to get a warrant before opening a suspect’s search histories and browsing content online. It did not pass with only one vote remaining. Apparently, legal experts reveal that warrantless searching online histories were legal, for 20 years now, to be exact.
As Fox News reported, senators are now under scrutiny by the masses after the legislation branch passed the USA Freedom Reauthorization Act or the Patriot Act. This bill allows the authorities to fully open anyone’s browser or search histories online without a need to get a warrant.
It was supposed to be amended in the second week of May, which says that the FBI must be required with a warrant. However, the garnered votes for this change was short by one point.
Now, over 50 groups from different sectors wrote a letter to the Congress, pushing them to block the bill from entirely passing it into law.
“Internet search and browsing history is extremely revealing in nature, and the Fourth Amendment requires a warrant to obtain this information,” the letter said.
Even major social media platforms like Reddit, Twitter, and Mozilla, created a letter suggesting to stop the bill.
“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.”
No need to stop the bill– it’s been happening for 20 years now
Though groups are now protesting against the Senate’s passing of the bill, legal experts explain that they no longer need to protest against the law being passed– it has been 20 years ago since the FBI can legally do this search online.
That’s right. The FBI can easily access your search histories or browsing content online without any warrant since the year 2001.
“It’s not new. Law enforcement has been able to get that data without a warrant for at least since the 1980s. National security investigations got similar authority no later than 2001 (USA PATRIOT),” Stewart Baker, former general counsel of the National Security Agency, told Fox News in an email.
Fact-checking website, PolitiFact, also supported this claim and said that “this authority is nothing new.”
“It’s been allowed for 20 years in foreign intelligence investigations, and is also allowed in basic criminal investigations — all without a warrant,” says on the website. “The vote referenced here applied only to Americans ‘relevant’ to counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigation. Although a warrant isn’t needed, investigators must get a court to sign off on the internet data access.”