58 Human Rights and Civil Liberties Organizations Demand an End to the Backdoor Search Loophole

EFF and 57 organizations, including American Civil Liberties Union, R Street, and NAACP, spoke out against warrantless searches of American citizens in a joint letter this week demanding reforms of the so-called “backdoor search” loophole that exists for data collected under Section 702.

The backdoor search loophole allows federal government agencies, including the FBI and CIA, to, without a warrant, search through data collected on American citizens.

The data is first collected by the intelligence community under a section of law called Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which provides rules for sweeping up communications of foreign individuals outside the United States. However, the U.S. government also uses 702 to collect the communications of countless American citizens and store them in a database accessible by several agencies.

EFF and many others believe this type of mass collection alone is unconstitutional. The backdoor search loophole infringes American rights further—allowing agencies to warrantlessly search through 702-collected data by using search terms that describe U.S. persons. These terms could include names, email addresses, and more.

This practice needs to end. And a proposal before Congress to require warrants on backdoor searches used only in criminal investigations—as recently reported by the New York Times—does not go far enough.

As EFF, and several other organizations, said in an Oct. 3 letter:

“Applying a warrant requirement only to searches of Section 702 data involving ‘criminal suspects,’ is not an adequate solution to this problem. Most fundamentally, it ignores the fact that the Fourt