back to article FBI tries again to get warrantless access to your browser history

US legislators are making another attempt to give the FBI access to anyone's web browser history with a new amendment to the pending review of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) Amendments Act of 2015. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the amendment [PDF], which would allow the FBI to use National Security …

  1. NotBob

    This bill would mean more government surveillance of Americans, less due process, and less independent oversight of U.S. intelligence agencies

    So they're trying for more of the same? At least it's true to form...

    1. sysconfig

      Great to hear that the Brits are pioneers and the Muricans follow suit this time around. Sounds a hell of a lot like Investigatory Powers Bill over here.

  2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    and in other news,

    it was reported that there has been a noticeable rise in people browsing the internet from Live CD/DVD distros and VM that are overwritten once it is shutdown.

    Good luck to the FBI getting access to those browser histories.

    So be careful what you wish for.

    I wouldn't put it past one or two browser makers to make 'clear ALL Histories' the default.

    1. Dadmin

      Re: and in other news,

      Indeed, check out the Linux distro from Ireland that goes by the name of Tails.

      No need for accessing the history directly, they can build the history from the NSA data farm and your data and search, and phone calls, and INTERNET(elreg) goings on from any port are all there.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You don't understand what they're asking for

      By mentioning NSLs, they're talking about asking ISPs and backbone providers for this information, which they expect them to log. You can use your live CD distro in a VM running a browser using only private pages, and they'll have your history just like everyone else's.

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: You don't understand what they're asking for

        Very true - and it will show a long list of https connections to a VPN server in Iceland

        1. Mpeler

          Re: You don't understand what they're asking for

          Ahhh, THAT'S why Bárðarbunga blew up - stack overflow...

          (OK, a boom a bit bigger than the bard, but hey...).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: You don't understand what they're asking for

          Which they've probably already pwned so they can see where the connections go from there...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Access to your browser history

    How exactly are the ISPs already monitoring and storing our web usage.

    1. Dadmin

      Re: Access to your browser history

      Directly from your traffic, in the case of your ISP. Or in the case of not your ISP, there are peering points that are hacked by the NSA/FBI to grab data in-between encrypted channels. All of AT&T is wired in this manner; all major peering junctions have fiber-splitters in secret rooms that siphon off all data from EVERYONE and feed it to the NSA. It is known.

    2. Ole Juul

      Re: Access to your browser history

      "How exactly are the ISPs already monitoring and storing our web usage."

      DNS lookups are logged as a matter of course. In may countries by law.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Access to your browser history

      Are US ISPs are obliged to log domains that clients connect to? I don't think so, they'd have kicked up the same fuss that UK ISPs have over the Snooper's Charter.

      They can write all the NSLs to ISPs that they want, if the ISPs don't log it this info isn't available.

  4. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Fear not, FBI, NSA, etc.... there's hope on the horizon. Once the UK formalizes the Snooper's Charter, the Congress will figure if it's good the Brits, then it's good for us. Patience Grasshopper.

    Since it passed the House of Commons, I'm gathering it may just pass the Lords?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      The House of Lords tends to take a more principled stand on such matters, since they are a bit more divorced from party politics than the House of Commons. However, successive governments have loaded the chamber with enough placemen over the years that there's no guarantee any proposed amendment will pass or that the bill will be returned to the Commons for revision.

  5. asdf

    Good luck with that

    Yet another reason to use Tor for browsing even if your life is fairly boring like mine (increase noise to signal ratio if nothing else). Using Tails OS on CD for example makes it nearly impossible for them to do so even if they have your machine (assuming you haven't drawn interest to yourself from state actors well before hand). Even Heinlein suggested gumming up electronic surveillance whenever possible and it was still largely fiction in his day.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Good luck with that

      If the shysters in the US courts, particularly the Nine Seniles, bother to read the Bill of Rights (or more accurately have it read to them) this should be shot down in flames. But I doubt the shysters led by the Nine Seniles will bother with the BIll of Rights the banana and stripes will slide further into a police state with a veneer of elections.

      1. asdf

        friggin Millennials

        Plus it works great in their favor that most people under the age of 35 or so seem incapable of grasping the basic concept of privacy and why they shouldn't be so quick to give everyone else's away. Because of course the world revolves around me and every one wants to know what my crappy soy organic lunch today looked like.

        1. asdf

          Re: friggin Millennials

          Ok Ok not fair to paint a whole generation I know. Especially since it is mostly Baby Boomer leadership pushing this (can't help myself lol).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: friggin Millennials

            Nope, it's fair. Millennials hate privacy, and both government and silicon valley are delighted to exploit it.

            Also they think they invented everything, already played out on Usenet and BBS.

      2. TechBearMike

        Re: Good luck with that

        FWIW, there are only eight seniles on the SCOTUS at present, with the fate of the ninth in limbo. Also FWIW, the three female "seniles" aren't anything near what I would call senile, however jokingly. They show solid grasp of complicated issues on a regular basis. I would expect the three of them to make good calls on technology cases.

      3. Mpeler
        Big Brother

        Re: Good luck with that

        Well if they hadn't offed Scalia, there might be some sanity left.

        By the way, age does not necessarily denote senility, nor is senility only seen in the aged...

        1. asdf

          Re: Good luck with that

          >Well if they hadn't offed Scalia, there might be some sanity left.

          Ugh did you really just say this? Because the main problem with the US today is sodomy is legal huh? Even putting his politics aside you actually do believe he was murdered? Well then there won't be any reasoning with you. Wow worst comment of the week right here.

        2. ecofeco Silver badge

          Re: Good luck with that

          You forgot the /sarcasm tag, Mpeler.

          1. asdf

            Re: Good luck with that

            Did he? In this era of a possible President Trump it's not longer safe to assume.

  6. Oengus

    Spoilt brats

    It doesn't matter how many times they get knocked back. Like a 6 year old child, they will keep nagging and trying until Congress and the Senate get tired and give them what they want. Once they get what they want from this round they will, like that damned 6 year old, start nagging for the next extension of their powers.

    1. Fatman

      Re: Spoilt brats

      There is a very effective way to deal with spoiled brats.

      It is called a leather belt, and it is applied judiciously to the bottocks.

      Perhaps that is how those at the FBI should be dealt with, a very politically motivated spanking.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Spoilt brats

        "It is called a leather belt, and it is applied judiciously to the bottocks."

        Unless the brat's a masochist, in which case the belt only solicits cries for more, along with some erotic moaning. With some people, you just can't win because they like it BOTH ways...

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. AlanT1


    I thought I would comment here but as I do not live in a democracy like the USA, the UK or even the EU but live in Military dictatorship with some of the toughest anti regime measures of anywhere I elected to tick the post anonymously box. I then found myself labelled as a sniveling coward. Really?

    1. Mystic Megabyte

      Re: Coward

      That title is supposed to be a joke. Maybe you have not yet grasped the subtleties of British humour.

    2. Mahhn

      Re: Coward

      Funny enough - the US is not a Democracy, it is a democratically elected Republic. Democracy doesn't work (it sits around all day spending others money on booze).

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Coward

        Apparently, a republic doesn't work either, because it ALSO sits around all day spending others' money. In fact, ANY government is at its core a bunch of people (a bunch can be one sometimes) spending other people's money. Kinda comes with the territory.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Security agencies always think they need more snooping powers. It's the government's job to tell them no.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Impossible. The snoops can always dig up existential threats to the government, and government by default has a self-preservation motive...

  10. Whitter

    Round them up

    Is there a crime for "wilfully adding the breach of constitutional rights" that can be applied to senator(s) (and any politicos, think-tank members, public servants and lobbyists) so we can round these people up and stop them attempting the same shit over and over?

    1. Fatman

      Re: Is there a crime for "wilfully adding the breach of constitutional rights"

      One could make the case that since they swear to support and uphold the Constitution, any acts on their part that violate the Constitution constitute treason.

      Treason during times of war is punishable by .......

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Is there a crime for "wilfully adding the breach of constitutional rights"

        No, because treason is explicitly and narrowly defined. Unless they actually take up arms against the US government, they cannot be tried for treason. Plus most people in office are immune from direct prosecution and have to be impeached and removed first. Breaking the Constitution in other ways can be impeachable offenses, but Congress does look after its own.

  11. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Why are they so scared of getting a warrant?

    I'm sure the FBI et al. have a long list of friendly judges who will put their bottle of Jack Daniels aside long enough to sign anything put in front of them without reading it. So why are they so afraid of asking for a warrant?

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Why are they so scared of getting a warrant?

      Because if the friendly judge is going to sign it anyway, why bother with the sham?

      Judicial oversight has just been a legal veneer in the past to fend off any pesky public disquiet. But the lack of any significant backlash to the Snowden revelations has demonstrated that the public is mostly quite content with constant surveillance, provided it's someone else who gets arrested, so they've presumably decided that the legal veneer simply isn't worth the effort of polishing.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmm browser history. What's that again? :P

  13. Wommit


    "Technically, the NSL can only be issued for terrorism or spying investigations, but the FBI has abused such powers in the past."


    And if you keep spreading these LIES then you might find some of your browser history being sent to your wife. How about the "Farm Yard" series being sent to your boss. (Err... maybe not, I've just checked his browser history. He could give you some pointers.)

    Anyway stop with the lies already. What are you a terrorist sympathiser?

    Damn pinko commie wetbacks.

    This was not sent from the FBI.

  14. Aodhhan

    Not Accurate

    First off... they cannot obtain your browser history, as stated in the first paragraph of this article. Once again, this site provides reporting which is inaccurate and lazy.

    Second... this is the same basic information they can obtain when asking for someone's phone information from your telephone company. Things like call history, who you called, who called you, length of call, how you pay for your bill, etc. Without actually listening to your phone conversations.

    So this is asking for the same crap for your connection to the Internet. Like routing history, how you pay for your bill, etc.

    Third, they still cannot actually get into your system without a warrant. Typically in the USA, once you do something with a third party or use a public medium doing it, your right of privacy ends.

    This is still a lot less invasive than most countries. Especially countries where services like ISP, telephone, etc. is either run by the government or subsidized... and therefore can pretty much do what they wish. Always cracks me up when another government person shakes a finger at the USA for doing something their country is already doing, and probably with much stricter policies.

    Consider this... there is a lot of people in the USA. The government doesn't have the resources or the people to go after just anyone doing something minor. If they suspect something, get a warrant or watch you... as soon as they figure out you're not doing anything wrong or it's something so minor they don't want to waste the manpower on it... they move on. There's always bigger fish to fry.

    Don't let other people or conspiracy theories freak you out or put fear into you. You're smarter than this.

    If you aren't doing anything wrong. Aren't committing felonies, hurting anyone in any way or planning to hurt people.. you're safe.

    If you're not a criminal, this information should comfort you. After all.. it allows the Justice Department to find criminals who steal your identity, take your money and data. Not to mention find people who are out to hurt others and your family.

    1. Fatman

      Re: Not Accurate

      Thank you very much, Mr. Comey!

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Not Accurate

      If you aren't doing anything wrong. Aren't committing felonies, hurting anyone in any way or planning to hurt people.. you're safe.

      I was almost buying into your advice until I read this. Then I realized it was one big put-on. No one is this naive, are they?

      Well done. Well done. That is some top shelf trolling. Top marks for pacing and timing.

  15. Stevie Silver badge


    An enterprising webmaster could supply a service that would load content like "hamster dancing" or "two girls etc" with a meta reload such that one could load one's browser history with stomach-turning yet legal content while one slept (and hence had no need to view said content oneself) so that the FBI agent would have to rinse out their eyeballs with bleach, forgo meals for some time and spend days shaking off the earworms.

    The downside is that the sidebars on google and amazon, and the ads in El Reg would become things of horror that would need adblocking.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      Wouldn't they just invent a filter to screen them out based on timing and pattern matching?

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: Bah!

        Um ... the *point* of the exercise is that the FBI *wants* to look at your browser history. Why would they filter it? My point is that you can at the same time give them what they are looking for in spades while at the same time demonstrate that it doesn't mean a gosh-darned thing.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Bah!

          The other poster is saying you can turn this fetish around by having the browser (in your sleep) look for grotesque imagery. Very few people will be able to tolerate highly-varied grotesque imagery for very long. Sure, you can have people into gore or grandpas who would actually get turned on by granny porn, but having all these fetishes in the same person? Unlikely. Thus you need the filter (otherwise, you'll need to check the late night meal selection as well as make sure the toilet isn't prone to clogging).

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