Why Google, Facebook, Yahoo Oppose Expansion of FBI Surveillance Powers?

by YouBlawg on October 4, 2016

fbi-surveillance-powersAnd as we edge closer to higher levels of automation in life, technology continues to pose significant privacy threats. Aware or not, we are expelling massive amounts of personal information in the void that is internet each day and making it available to a number of authorities.

Staying updated with each and every law passed and condition accepted which hands over the right to user privacy over to authorities is not an easy task.

The latest rule proposed in the U.S. caught the world by surprise for the extent of user privacy invasion it intends to not only allow, but make totally legal. Google, Facebook, Yahoo, other members of the social media industry, and civil rights groups showed no lethargy in registering their opposition and disapproval towards the legislation that would grant FBI the ability to collect categories of internet records without court approval through the National Security Letters.

Since the bill has passed the Senate intelligence committee and now lies in the full Senate now, a letter from the opposition was sent out to Senators voicing privacy and security concerns. According to the bill, the expansion of surveillance powers of the FBI would grant them access to a variety of online information, such as IP addresses, session data, routing and transmission information, location information, email metadata, a person’s browsing history, and the exact date and time a person logs in or out of his/her online account.

What seems to concern the opposed groups the most are mainly just two parts of the legislation. One of these is the 2017 Intelligence Authorization Act that is said to “include provisions to expand warrantless government surveillance and takes aim at a valuable independent oversight board,” according to Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon. This would mean that any FBI field agent is permitted to ask for email records without a court order.

The second part of the legislation that bothers the opposition is an extension suggested to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act by Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas. This amendment extends the boundaries of information that the government can seek using the NSL. Formerly this information was restricted to user name, address, and length of service of a person or entity, but the amendment adds in other confidential information such as login history, account number, and card/bank account information.

This expansion of surveillance powers has sparked immense concern among influential groups, such as Google and Facebook because it could expose details about a person’s political affiliation, medical conditions, religion, substance abuse history, sexual orientation, and the aforementioned information stated in the Cornyn amendment; even his/her commute all through the day, as mentioned in the letter.

The letter has the support of other dominant organizations, such as Reform Government Surveillance, American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, etc. With so many important signatories on board, the letter will surely not get unnoticed in the Senate.

Such battles between tech community and civil liberties organizations and law enforcement agencies help keep check and balance on both sides and make sure that things remain in order. It is not the first or the last time the two sides have come face to face; all we hope is that the fight results in best interest of the general public.

(Photo credits: Shutterstock)

About the author

Rachel Stinson has always had a knack for writing, food, fashion, and places. Blogging has combined all four for her with an added bonus of enthusiastic audiences. She expertly analyzes real estates and restaurants with respect to pricing and people involved and can express her opinions in an unhesitant, engaging manner for all matters including legal matters about Law Firm in Dubai etc

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