On Thursday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the US House of Representatives are expected to introduce legislation that will overhaul the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless internet surveillance program to offer American citizens more privacy, according to a Reuters report.
The existing law, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, allows US intelligence agencies to listen in on and store digital communications from foreign suspects living outside of the US. However, in 2013, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the program also incidentally includes communications of Americans, such as if they communicate with a foreign suspect living overseas. Those communications are also then subject to searches without a warrant from the FBI.
Section 702 is set to expire on December 31, and civil liberties groups say that this new bill is the best chance Congress has to reform it, Reuters noted.
The new bill would require the FBI to gain a search warrant to access Americans' communications in these instances, according to Reuters. However, this restriction would not apply to requests of communications or data in cases involving counterterrorism or counter-espionage.
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That last provision angered civil liberties groups, several of which sent a letter this week stating that they would not support a law that includes a "backdoor search loophole" and does not require a warrant for all American communications collected under Section 702.
The new legislation would renew the program for six years, and would codify the NSA's recent decision to stop collecting Americans' emails and texts to foreign contacts mentioning surveilled individuals. However, that rule would end in six years as well, Reuters noted, meaning that the NSA could potentially continue that practice in 2023.
This is not the only Section 702-related bill in existence: Earlier this year, Republican senators introduced legislation to renew the law without changes and make it permanent. This position is backed by both the White House and intelligence agencies. However, Reuters noted that that bill is expected to face resistance in the House, where several Republicans have said they oppose renewal without major changes.
Several other senators are also planning to introduce bills involving Section 702 reforms in the coming weeks as well.
Pew also surveyed technology experts, who predicted that few individuals will have the energy or resources to protect themselves from "dataveillance" in the coming years. The experts also said they foresee increasing security issues due to the rise of Internet of Things (IoT) devices in consumers' homes. This makes it even more important for tech companies that develop these devices to ensure that they have robust security protections in place.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
1. New bipartisan legislation from the US House of Representatives would overhaul the National Security Agency's warrantless internet surveillance program to offer American citizens more privacy.
2. The new bill would require the FBI to gain a search warrant to access Americans' communications in these instances, except in cases involving counterterrorism or counter-espionage.
3. More bills related to Section 702 reform are expected in the coming weeks.
- These 6 companies are the worst at giving away your data (TechRepublic)
- Does using encryption make you a bigger target for the NSA? (TechRepublic)
- Privacy Laws: How the US, EU and others protect IoT data (or don't) (ZDNet)
- Report: Despite privacy concerns, 43% of consumers offer personal data in exchange for discounts (TechRepublic)
- Amazon and WhatsApp almost as bad as US telcos at protecting privacy: EFF (ZDNet)
- Big data privacy is a bigger issue than you think (TechRepublic)
Alison DeNisco Rayome has nothing to disclose. She does not hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.