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Congress passes crackdown on NSA surveillance

New rules would put restrictions on budget use

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The US House of Representatives has passed a measure aimed at limiting the NSA's ability to access personal data and conduct surveillance.

The House on Thursday voted to approve an amendment to the 2015 Department of Defense Appropriations Act (H.R. 4870) seeking to prevent warrantless collection of data from government databases as well as the tampering with equipment for surveillance.

The amendment, put forward by Thomas Massie (R-KY) as well as Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) would declare that that no funds in the budget could be used for controversial 'Section 702' mass data collection under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and would prevent government agencies from forcing individuals and companies to equip products with 'backdoor' mechanisms for surveillance.

The 'Section 702' provision has been the controversial measure used to pull large collections of data from telecommunications firms, while the forced implementation of surveillance backdoors was alleged at firms such as RSA.

"There's no question Americans have become increasingly alarmed with the breadth of unwarranted government surveillance programs used to store and search their private data," the three representatives said of the amendment.

"By adopting this amendment, Congress can take a sure step toward shutting the back door on mass surveillance."

The House approved the amendment late Thursday with a 293-123 vote. The Department of Defense Appropriations Act itself is still awaiting approval by the House and will then be passed on to the Senate for consideration.

Following the vote, the Electronic Frontier Foundation applauded the move, which they say will help protect the privacy of Americans.

"The House voted overwhelmingly to cut funding for two of the NSA's invasive surveillance practices: the warrantless searching of Americans' international communications, and the practice of requiring companies to install vulnerabilities in communications products or services," said staff attorney Mark Rumold.

"We applaud the House for taking this important first step, and we look forward to other elected officials standing up for our right to privacy." ®

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