The Senate this week debates an important amendment to the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA) by Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that would broaden a prohibition on warrantless surveillance by the government, from our online searches to our geolocation history.
This debate confronts us with an awkward question: Who knows us best? Do we, or others with access to information gathered from the internet? Unless you’ve affirmatively turned off the location feature on your smartphone, your Android or iPhone device keeps a record of your movements, as do many of the apps on your touchscreen. Your phone or other digital devices also know what purchases you have made — whether for a medical condition you’d rather keep private, or a donation to a favorite political cause.
And search engines, unless you’ve affirmatively limited their memory in your settings, have a good picture from your web searches and app activity that you have been thinking about.
Unfortunately, information about you stored by these companies is available to the government without the need for a search warrant based on probable cause. The appropriateness of allowing the government to warrantlessly surveil our every move and action is the issue Sens. Wyden and Daines are forcing the Senate to examine.