After several days of negotiations, US House lawmakers were successful in raising an amendment that protects Americans from spying against their own government online. The discussions were behind closed doors over the Memorial Day weekend, and the news was only announced on Friday.
According to a report from Gizmodo, Spearheading the amendment are Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Warren Davidson. The objective is to deter the FBI from storing Americans' web browsing history without a legal warrant. According to Lofgren, "After extensive bicameral, bipartisan deliberations, there will be a vote to include a final significant reform to Section 215 [of the USA Patriot Act] that protects Americans' civil liberties."
"Without this prohibition, intelligence officials can potentially have access to information such as our personal health, religious practices, and political views without a warrant," he added.
US House lawmakers tackle privacy bill concerning gray area on warrantless surveillance against its citizens by the government
The House will be voting on the amendment early this week regarding the surveillance reauthorization bill that will reinstate critical tools currently being used by the FBI to conduct foreign intelligence queries.
The amendment by Lofgren-Davidson will require the FBI to acquire a warrant even if there's only a small chance that the data they require is connected to a US citizen. If the government wishes to access the I.P. addresses of everyone who visited a particular website, they would need to have a warrant not unless they can guarantee that no US citizen will be identified.
Based on the Gizmodo report, according to Davidson, "For too long, Americans' most private information has been compromised by vague laws and lax privacy protections," and added, "With the vote on the Lofgren-Davidson Amendment to FISA reform this week, we take an important step toward restoring Americans' long-neglected Fourth Amendment rights."
He added, "Protecting Americans' internet browser searches from warrantless surveillance is a modest, though important first step. With the amendment's adoption, I will be voting to reauthorize the expired sections of FISA, and urge my colleagues to do the same."
Important things to note about the amendment
The news marks an important victory for privacy reformers whose objectives would have seemed impossible in the past. Sen. Ron Wyden, who was able to co-sponsor a Senate version of the Lofgren-Davidson amendment, has signed off on the House text.
Wyden was also able to state that the amendment will prevent the government from collecting data from virtual private networks that might harm Americans.
According to the senator, "Should the government be interested in who visited a website or watched a YouTube video if there is any possibility those people are U.S. persons, the collection is prohibited," and added, "Finally, if, despite these clear prohibitions, a mistake is made and U.S. person records are collected, they must be immediately deleted."