Federal appeals court rules FBI can continue to surveil your data in secret

Federal appeals court rules FBI can continue to surveil your data in secret
(Image: Mark Van Scyoc, Shutterstock)

[Ed. – The court in question, as you may have reasonably guessed, was the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Last September the Los Angeles Time published an op-ed that claimed that ‘California’s notoriously liberal “9th Circus” court of appeals is growing more centrist.’ Were they kidding?]

A US federal appeals court has upheld the constitutionality of gag orders that prevent companies from informing their customers about FBI surveillance.

The nondisclosure agreements often accompany national security letters (NSLs) issued by the FBI, compelling tech companies to turn over subscriber data while leaving the target unaware that they are being surveilled. No warrant is required for the data and the gag orders can remain in effect indefinitely.

Content distribution provider CloudFlare and mobile network operator CREDO sued the government to inform their customers of five NSLs received between 2011 and 2013, Reuters reports. The firms mounted a joint challenge to the gag orders on the grounds that they violated the First Amendment’s free speech protections. The FBI permitted the companies to reveal that they had received NSLs and identify themselves as appellants in the court case earlier this year in March.

A three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco unanimously rejected the argument that the nondisclosure orders violated the First Amendment.

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