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Patriot Act renewal now allows the FBI to access your browser history without a warrant

Dad: “Why is the FBI here?”

Image: Homeland Security Today

Last night, not enough Senators showed up to back an amendment brought forth by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT). If they have, it would have blocked a bill proposed by melting warlock Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, which allows the FBI to collect information about Americans’ web-browsing and search histories without a warrant as part of the Patriot Act renewal.

“When you talk about web browsing and searches, you’re talking about some of the most sensitive, most personal, and most private details of Americans’ lives. Every thought that can come into people’s heads can be revealed in an internet search or a visit to a website,” Wyden said in a statement to Business Insider. Wyden and his boys were one vote short of blocking the amendment with their amendment. Laws are fun.

The ACLU is pissed. Digital advocacy group Fight For The Future is pissed. Hell, Mr. Robot is probably pissed. The FBI memes still flow, and now make a bit more sense. This is a smack in the virtual face of internet privacy, citizen privacy and shows just how far McConnell and our fucked up Department of Justice are willing to extend their perceived powers.

There are some finer points of the amendment; it’s not completely overreaching

It would give the FBI permission, without a warrant, to look through anyone’s browsing history if it is relevant to an investigation (subjective if no judge is involved). It does block the FBI from accessing the content of your web-browsing history, limiting them only to records detailing sites and search terms. That’s semantics.

This is undoubtedly a blow to citizen internet privacy. The Patriot Act is a piece of legislature that needs to be eliminated, not renewed. It set into motion so many terrible things (such as ICE and strict immigration policies) and was a horrible overreaction to a devastating event. This piece of the Patriot Act is truly shitty, and as the NSA proved, citizen surveillance programs are absolute failures. So it shouldn’t exist, but does, and Section 215 has been part of the Patriot Act since its inception and has been misused millions of times, as revealed by Edward Snowden.

The good news? The FBI doesn’t give a shit about you. Not right now, at least.

Who the fuck do we think we are? In all likely scenarios, 99.99% of the people reading this are of no concern to the FBI. The FBI does not want to spend time tracking down your ISP and attempting to view your browser history on a whim. It is an organization, like many government organizations, that does not give a shit about you — until it does. And if it does, then you’ve done something to deserve that attention.

And if you’ve done something morally correct but legally wrong to command that attention, then you should be smart enough to protect yourself by hiding your browser history.

There are three great ways to protect your browser history you sneaky little sneaks.

  • The first way to protect your browsing is to use an HTTPS browser extension like HTTPS Everywhere. This keeps the jackboots from seeing what kind of porn you are watching and reading your intimate shit posts on Reddit.
  • Second, you can use a VPN to mask your IP address, so your ISP can’t tell it’s you, so when some rumpled suit from the FBI shows up at your ISP to ask to see the browser history of Twitter user @BagMyDick_NixonBlood1989 for sedition, they’ll get nothing.
  • Finally, you can use the Tor Browser to browse the internet completely anonymously, like Joe’s love for mechanical keyboards.

Look, the government doesn’t have the manpower or the technical aptitude to really get citizen surveillance right. A positive side effect of government incompetence is that you can sleep well at night that no matter what rights it strips from its citizens, it’s too burdened by bureaucracy to get it right. But also, hide your browsing history just in case you little anarchist you.

Have any thoughts on this? Do you think this is right? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Defunct writer. Exhausted. Ephemeral existence for ephemeral times. Don't email me.

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