U.S. Senate approves the renewal of a warrantless surveillance program

senate surveillance reauthorization 2017
On Thursday, January 18, the U.S. Senate voted to approve the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017, which expands the U.S. government’s ability to pursue warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens. The bill was met with a bit of bi-partisan opposition, in the form of a failed filibuster by Senators Ron Wyden, D-OR, and Rand Paul, R-KY. The Senate voted to limit debate to 30 hours, according to Motherboard, effectively putting an end to the filibuster.

The FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act would effectively renew the authorization the U.S. government used to gather surveillance on U.S. citizens without requiring a warrant. The methods fall into two categories: “About collection” and “backdoor search.”

“With backdoor search, intelligence agencies can monitor the communications of any American that has been in touch with any foreigner the agency deems a target,” Motherboard reports, “About collection allows intelligence agencies to monitor the electronic communications of any American that mentions information, such as a phone number or email address, about a foreign target, even if they have never communicated with that foreigner.”

The bill is expected to be signed as soon as it hits President Donald Trump’s desk, at which time the amendments will in effect for six years, when they will be up for reauthorization again.

The American Civil Liberties Union released a coalition letter outlining its opposition to the law, describing it as “short-sighted” and “rushed” given it was put together in 48 hours.

“Indeed, the bill is measurably worse than a short-term straight reauthorization of Section 702 with a sunset. Given this — and the enormous privacy interests at stake — it is astounding that the bill is being rushed through committee and was released less than 48 hours before the scheduled markup,” the Coalition letter reads, undersigned by 36 different groups opposing the passage of the bill.

The ACLU’s criticism stems not only from the drafting of the bill but of the way it reauthorizes provisions of the FISA act, which the ACLU claims are unlawfully interpreted by U.S. law enforcement agencies.

“The broad language of the bill could be interpreted by the government to sweep in individuals only tangentially related to malicious cyber activities,” the Coalition letter reads.

Smart Home

Postmates expands to 1,000 more cities to take on DoorDash and Uber Eats

Postmates has expanded its on-demand delivery service to 1,000 additional U.S. cities, taking the total number served to more than 3,500 across all 50 states and putting it within reach of 70% of households.
Smart Home

Can new laws protect you from smart home security breaches?

To help combat smart home data breaches, state and federal lawmakers are exploring ways to protect consumers. California, Oregon, and members of the U.S. Senate all have proposals to protect people's data.
Emerging Tech

U.S. police are testing out Batman-style bola guns to catch criminals

U.S. police are taking a page out of Batman’s playbook with a new grappling hook gun, called the BolaWrap, which fires out a kevlar cord able to tie up assailants in the blink of an eye.

Smash your carrier shackles with the best unlocked phones

If you want the freedom to switch carriers at will or you prefer to get your phone directly from the company that makes it, you'll want to buy an unlocked smartphone. These are the best unlocked phones you can buy in the U.S.

From simple work tools to high-end gaming peripherals, these are the best mice

If you're looking to buy the best mouse for you, whether it's for gaming or work, we have something for you. We've put together a list of our favorite mice, all of which have great features and sell at a great price.

Amazon drops deals on Razer, Netgear, and Western Digital PC accessories

Grab these deals while you can: As part of their Deal of the Day promotion, Amazon is offering deep discounts on a wide variety of PC accessories including premium gaming mice, external hard drives, and even Wi-Fi routers.

Tired of choosing between Windows and Mac? Check out these Chromebooks instead

We've compiled a list of the best Chromebooks -- laptops that combine great battery life, comfortable keyboards, and the performance it takes to run Google's lightweight Chrome OS. From Samsung to Acer, these are the Chromebooks that really…

WWDC 2019 Complete Coverage

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference is a key tech event each year, and for Apple fans, it will be one of the two best times of 2019 (along with "new iPhone day," of course). For the last few years, Apple has debuted much of its…

AMD's upcoming Navi graphics cards are incoming. Here's what to expect

AMD's Navi graphics cards could be available as soon as July 2019 — as long as it's not delayed by stock problems. Billed as a successor to Polaris, Navi promises to deliver better performance to consoles like Sony's PlayStation 5.

Want to watch Netflix in bed or browse the web? We have a tablet for everyone

There’s so much choice when shopping for a new tablet that it can be hard to pick the right one. From iPads to Android, these are our picks for the best tablets you can buy right now whatever your budget.

Working hard or hardly working? Do it right with these versatile PC desks

Looking for a new piece of furniture that will fit in your office, dorm, or gaming cave? Here are some of our favorite computer desks on the market, whether you're a serious gamer looking for an upgrade, or just moved into a new space.

Time to upgrade your storage? Here are the best SSDs you can buy right now

Solid state drives provide superior speed and more affordable than ever. Interested in buying one? We've found the top drives that range from $100 to $1,000 in price, so you can get the most bang for your buck.

Boost your PCs power by learning how to overclock your CPU

Is your PC just chugging along, a little slower than you'd like? Sometimes you just need a little more power under the hood. Before you pick up some new hardware, learn how to overclock your CPU.

Leaked memo: If your MacBook keyboard dies, Apple will fix or replace in one day

If your Apple MacBook keyboard is problematic, getting it fixed at a Genius Bar just got a lot easier. Apple has now mandated that its Geniuses repair or replace MacBook keyboards by the next working day.