The latest surveillance battle gripping the technology industry is focused on a rewrite of US surveillance law that would mean the justice department would be able to access a citizen’s web browsing history, location data and some email records without approval from a judge using a so-called national security letters (NSLs).The FBI contends that such data is covered implicitly under current statute, which was written years ago and only explicitly covers data normally associated with telephone records.
Director James Comey now is lobbying Congress to extend the current definition to include internet data.
Technology companies including Google, Facebook and Yahoo have sent a letter warning Congress that they would oppose any efforts to rewrite law in the FBI’s favor.
This expansion of the NSL statute has been characterized by some government officials as merely fixing a ‘typo’ in the law, the companies wrote:
In reality, however, it would dramatically expand the ability of the FBI to get sensitive information about users’ online activities without court oversight.