Google, Facebook oppose email privacy bill amendment

Google, Facebook oppose email privacy bill amendment
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Google and Facebook are spearheading an effort to block part of a major email privacy bill that they say would dangerously expand what data law enforcement can obtain without a warrant.

An amendment floated by Sen. John CornynJohn CornynKavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow Grassley: Kavanaugh accuser 'deserves to be heard' in 'appropriate' manner MORE (R-Texas) last week would allow the FBI to obtain email records without a warrant in certain terrorism or intelligence-related cases — expanding of the use of so-called National Security Letters (NSL).

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“Given the sensitive nature of the information that could be swept up under the proposed expansion, and the documented past abuses of the underlying NSL statute, we urge the Senate to remove this provision from the Intelligence Authorization bill and oppose efforts to include such language in the ECPA reform bill, which has never included the proposed NSL expansion,” Google and Facebook, along with public interest groups and other industry representatives, said in a letter.

The signatories said they would oppose any bill that included the provision.

"We 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," they said.

The letter was also signed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Yahoo.

Cornyn’s amendment was one of a few that delayed the Senate Judiciary Committee's consideration of the email privacy bill last week. The committee is slated to mark the bill up Thursday.

The tech industry has pushed hard for the email privacy bill — a version of which passed the House — and many companies sent a letter last week urging the Senate panel to pass it without amendments.

In the letter, the groups and companies said they were also worried about a measure expanding the use of NSLs reportedly included in a Senate intelligence bill.

“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.”