Internet giants urge legislators to protect browsing data from warrantless access

Technology companies have jointly called on the House of Representatives to pass a legislation that would protect people's internet browsing data and search history from warrantless government access. Such protection was part of an amendment to the USA Freedom Reauthorization Act (H.R. 6172) that was rejected by the U.S. Senate last week.

The amendment, proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden from Oregon and Sen. Steve Daines from Montana, would require law enforcers such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation to obtain a warrant before gaining access to users' browsing history. That legislation would prevent the use of a provision under the USA Patriot Act that allows the collection of browsing data even without a court warrant. In a joint letter sent to lawmakers, several tech giants and organizations have urged the Congress to include that amendment when they take up H.R. 6172 next week. The alliance includes Mozilla, Twitter, Reddit, Patreon, Engine, Reform Government Alliance, and i2 Coalition. The letter states:

"As leading internet businesses and organizations, we believe privacy and security are essential to our economy, our businesses, and the continued growth of the free and open internet. By clearly reaffirming these protections, Congress can help preserve user trust and facilitate the continued use of the internet as a powerful contributing force for our recovery."

The signatories fear that search and browsing history could expose "detailed portrait of our private lives" such as "medical conditions, religious beliefs, and personal relationships". These details should be "protected by effective legal safeguards," the letter notes.

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