Mozilla, Twitter, Reddit join forces in effort to block browsing data from warrantless access

Seven internet companies have asked the US House of Representatives to prohibit the warrantless collection of internet search and browsing history when it considers the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

A group of seven internet companies are vowing to stand up for the privacy of its users this week when the United States House of Representatives considers the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020.

Mozilla, Engine, Reddit, Reform Government Surveillance, Twitter, i2Coalition, and Patreon have asked four US legislators to explicitly prohibit the warrantless collection of internet search and browsing history.

"We hope legislators will amend the bill to limit government access to internet browsing and search history without a warrant," the Firefox-maker said in a blog post.

"Too much search and browsing history still is collected and stored around the Web. We believe this data deserves strong legal protections when the government seeks access to it, but in many cases that protection is uncertain."

In a letter [PDF] to the four US House of Representatives members, the group said it privacy and security are essential to the economy, 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 group wrote.

The companies said search and browsing history can provide a detailed portrait of peoples' private lives, and it may reveal sensitive information such as medical conditions, religious beliefs, and personal relationships, and as such it should be protected by effective legal safeguards.

The Senate recently considered an amendment to address the concerns the group raised in its letter. They said the amendment would have expressly prohibited the use of Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act for the warrantless collection of search and browsing history.

"This provision attracted the support of a Senate supermajority, and consumer groups and businesses across America. It enjoys broad bipartisan support among members of the House of Representatives, and should be included if the House reauthorizes the USA FREEDOM Act," they said.

"Congress should take this opportunity to resolve any potential ambiguity and provide strong legal protections for all search and browsing history."


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