— The Obama administration on Tuesday announced new rules to protect the privacy of Americans’ online activity that could allow government to track their location without a warrant.
The rules, announced in the White House’s Federal Register, aim to protect privacy and keep Americans safe from hackers by requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant before accessing information from internet service providers or email accounts, according to a draft of the rules released Tuesday.
The regulations, the second of their kind under the Obama administration, require law enforcement and intelligence agencies to obtain “specificized articulable suspicion” before seeking a warrant to access the information.
Under the regulations, intelligence agencies must obtain a “legitimate interest” before obtaining a warrant, such as a national security investigation, and they must seek “probable cause” before making a warrant request, which the White, House and FBI say is necessary to gather evidence of criminal activity.
The changes to how law enforcement is able to access online information are part of a broader plan to improve cybersecurity by ensuring law enforcement has more tools to track the movements of people and gather intelligence about the targets of attacks.
The administration says the changes are needed because cybersecurity threats are growing and people are increasingly using mobile devices for everyday activities.
Privacy advocates have long warned that the current system of warrantless warrants for internet searches and emails is insufficient to protect Americans’ privacy.
The administration said the new rules will protect Americans from hacking and other forms of cyber crime, but privacy advocates have said the changes will also protect Americans by limiting the government’s ability to access information without a court order.