In a major blow to citizens’ privacy, the US Senate voted today to give law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and CIA the power to look into your browser history without a warrant. Thanks, Mitch McConnell.
Senators Ron Wyden from Oregan and Senator Steve Daines of Montana led the charge to insert privacy protections into the Patriot Act, which gives law enforcement agencies power for surveillance in order to maintain national security. However, the privacy protection amendment fell short by just one vote, as many senators who may have voted in favor of it didn’t show up.
This vote is a setback to the privacy of citizens at multiple levels. There’s already a growing level of concern among privacy advocates as governments around the world are using the coronavirus pandemic as a shield to insert new surveillance measures without any guardrails.
The Patriot Act should be repealed in its entirety, set on fire, and buried in the ground. It’s one of the worst laws passed in the last century, and there is zero evidence that the mass surveillance programs it enables have ever saved a single human life.
Under section 215 of the Patriot Act, the FBI and other agencies can go to your internet provider and ask for your browsing data without showing any cause.
As The Register noted, HTTPS connections to websites and SSH tunneling can make it harder for these agencies to look up your data. Plus, for sensitive browsing, you can use the Tor Browser that provides an extra layer of anonymity through its three-level security.