Skip to main content

The Senate is OK with the government spying on your browser history

An amendment in the United States Senate that would have blocked the government from surveilling Americans’ browser history without a warrant failed on Wednesday — by a single vote.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the amendment to the 2001 Patriot Act, which was meant to explicitly restrict authorities’ ability to search both browser and search histories under Section 215 of the act.

Wyden’s measure was essentially meant to block what another amendment was trying to accomplish: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had introduced a measure that would, in effect, greatly expand the surveillance powers of the Department of Justice.

“McConnell is that much closer to give [Attorney General] Bill Barr the green light to spy on Americans’ private information,” Wyden wrote on Twitter.

Fifty-nine members of the Senate just voted in favor of my amendment to block warrantless government surveillance of Americans' browser history. It failed by just one vote. McConnell is that much closer to giving Bill Barr the green light to spy on Americans' private information. https://t.co/IV5ERbte48

— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) May 13, 2020

“Now that Americans have been asked to stay home and not move around, they are more vulnerable than ever to abusive surveillance,” Wyden said in his statement. “Now more than ever, during this pandemic, Americans deserve assurances that the government isn’t spying on them as they move around the internet.”

In his own statement, McConnell called the bill “strong” and said that it “strikes a correct and delicate balance” between “the need for accountability with our solemn obligation to protect our citizens, and defend our homeland.”

Common sense tells us this crisis demands more vigilance on other fronts of national security not less,” McConnell said.

A total of 59 senators voted in favor of that amendment, one short of the 60 needed to approve the measure.

According to the Daily Beast, the amendment McConnell introduced would block the FBI from seeing the “content” of searches and browser activity, but it “explicitly permits the FBI to warrantlessly collect records on Americans’ web browsing and search histories. In a different amendment, McConnell also proposed giving the attorney general visibility into the ‘accuracy and completeness’ of FBI surveillance submissions to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court.”

Editors' Recommendations

Maya Shwayder
I'm a multimedia journalist currently based in New England. I previously worked for DW News/Deutsche Welle as an anchor and…
Microsoft just discovered the next big evolution in displays
Resident Evil 4 running on the LG UltraGear 45 gaming monitor.

Microsoft is working on a new patent that aims to bring unprecedented levels of control to displays. The new tech, dubbed Pixel Luminesce for Digital Display, allows you to micromanage every single pixel of your display, adjusting the brightness as needed. If and when this makes it out of the development stage, it could end up being huge for all sorts of use cases, and could bring major improvements to some of the best gaming monitors.

The patent application describing the tech, first shared by Windows Report, describes the new technology as something that would enable selective dimming. With Microsoft's new tech, you could decide that one part of the display stays brighter while the rest of it remains unaffected, and this would happen dynamically.

Read more
SWAT team’s Spot robot shot multiple times during standoff
Spot, a robot dog.

A Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot deployed by the Massachusetts State Police (MSP) was shot during a standoff in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

It’s believed to be the first time that the robot helper has taken a bullet during active duty, and it highlights how the machine can help keep law enforcement out of harm’s way during challenging situations.

Read more
Microsoft Edge is slowly becoming the go-to browser for PC gamers
microsoft edge chromium to roll out automatically soon chrome

Microsoft Edge is already jam-packed with features that other web browsers don't have, but a new one might well help your PC run faster while gaming. The default Windows web browser now has the option to limit the amount of RAM it uses, helping you prioritize RAM access to other applications or games. The feature is currently being tested in the Canary version of Microsoft Edge and could roll out to everyone if Microsoft deems it useful enough and gets quality feedback.

Spotted by X (formerly Twitter) user Leopeva64, the setting for this new feature is buried in the System and Performance section of the latest Canary version of Microsoft Edge. It is being rolled out gradually, so not everyone has it yet, but it gives two options for controlling your PC resources.

Read more