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Tech big boys band together to oppose government surveillance

The FBI would like to increase the amount of information they can get from tech companies – and the companies are pulling together to say no to their surveillance.

being tracked emails

Big Brother is closing in

The FBI would like to increase the amount of information they can get from tech companies – and the companies are pulling together to say no.

In a letter to senators signed by several tech giants and consumer rights groups, opponents harshly criticized two proposed legal changes that would greatly expand the categories of information that the government can demand without a court order.

Your browser history, up for grabs

Currently the FBI must obtain a court order to demand information about electronic communications from companies, unless the information falls under the categories listed in the National Security Letters (NSLs).

Proposed legislation would expand the categories under the NSL to include information like IP addresses, personal browsing histories, email metadata, location information, and the day and time that internet users signed into different accounts.

According to the letter, this information “would paint an incredibly intimate picture of an individual’s life.”

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Limiting while expanding

The first proposed legislation, the 2017 Intelligence Authorization Act, would not only expand the categories that fall under the NSL, but would also limit the jurisdiction of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which currently keeps on eye on government agencies to be sure they aren’t overstepping their authority. Senator Ron Wyden said that the new legislation would “take aim at [this] valuable independent oversight board.”

The second proposed legislation is an amendment to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act that would allow the government to gain information such as account numbers, login histories, and credit card or banking information.

Google, Facebook and more oppose

Opponents write that such 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.”

Amongst the signees of the letter are rights groups like the ACLU, Reform Government Surveillance, and Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as several major tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Yahoo. The opponents feel that the FBI already overuses the NSL, having issued 300,000 NSL orders in the past decade.


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Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

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