Facebook, Google and concerned parties are opposing part of a major email privacy bill that they say would dangerously expand what data law enforcement can obtain without a warrant.
Specifically, they are opposed to an expansion of the National Security Letter (NSL) statute, such as the one that was reportedly included in the Senate’s Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, and the one filed by Senator Cornyn as an amendment to the ECPA reform bill.
In a letter signed by the concerned parties, they said they would oppose any version of these bills that included such a proposal expanding the government’s ability to access private data without a court order.
This expansion of the NSL statute has been characterized by some government officials as merely fixing a “typo” in the law. In reality, however, it would dramatically expand the ability of the FBI to get sensitive information about users’ online activities without court oversight, the letter said.
The provision would expand the categories of records, known as Electronic Communication Transactional Records (ECTRs), that the FBI can obtain using administrative subpoenas called NSLs, which do not require probable cause. Under these proposals, ECTRs would include a host of online information, such as IP addresses, routing and transmission information, session data, and more.
The new categories of information that could be collected using an NSL—and thus without any oversight from a judge—would paint an incredibly intimate picture of an individual’s life. For example, ECTRs could include a person’s browsing history, email metadata, location information, and the exact date and time a person signs in or out of a particular online account.
This information could reveal details about a person’s political affiliation, medical conditions, religion, substance abuse history, sexual orientation, and, in spite of the exclusion of cell tower information in the Cornyn amendment, even his or her movements throughout the day, according to the letter.
Other signatories to the letter include the American Civil Liberties Union, Yahoo, CompTIA, Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch and more.