Mozilla, Twitter, and Other Tech Companies Ask US Legislators to Prohibit Warrantless Collection of Browsing Data

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.

According to a new report from CNET, 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,” Mozilla 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.”

The letter calls on top lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to permit a vote on a House version of the Wyden-Daines amendment, which came in just a single vote shy of passing in the Senate last week. The amendment sought to prohibit the FBI from accessing the search and web browsing history of American citizens without first obtaining a search warrant.

“As leading internet businesses and organisations, we believe privacy and security are essential to our economy, our businesses, and the continued growth of the free and open internet,” the letter says. “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.”

“Our users demand that we serve as responsible stewards of their private information, and our industry is predicated on that trust,” says the letter. “Americans deserve to have their online searches and browsing kept private, and only available to the government pursuant to a warrant.”

The amendment has also received support from dozens of civil rights and liberties groups, including the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Human Rights Watch. They co-signed a separate letter last week, which points out that “this reform is precisely designed to stave off the kind of scandals that led to a dramatic loss of trust in United States intelligence agencies over the past two decades.”