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The FBI wants to know what article you read online and at what time – Times of India




At a time when internet users are fighting for privacy on social media, a rather strange request has been made by the FBI. The agency has asked USA Today– a news website owned by Gannett Co.– to hand over details like IP addresses, phone numbers and other personal data of internet users who read a particular article on the USAonline Today website for a specific time duration of 35 minutes. The FBI wants this information to investigate the “a deadly shooting in February in Florida”. It lost two agents and three were wounded in the incident as per a report by Politico.


USA Today publisher Maribel Perez Wadsworth is protesting this request by the FBI and in a statement to The Verge said, “We were surprised to receive this subpoena particularly in light of President Biden’s recent statements in support of press freedom. The subpoena is also contrary to the Justice Department’s own guidelines concerning the narrow circumstances in which subpoenas can be issued to the news media.”
The FBI did not explain as to why it needs the personal information of readers of an online news article. As far as the article is concerned, it was published on February 2, 2021 at 9.29AM in the morning with the headline “FBI identifies 2 agents killed in Florida while serving warrant in crimes against children case”. The agency wants details of users who read the article between 7:03 PM ET and 7:38 PM ET in the evening.
This appears to be the first time a request like this has been made by a law enforcement agency. From a privacy standpoint, it is concerning, because if the FBI gets the personal data of readers then it will include details like IMEI, IP address, SIM number, user’s agent strings, Mac addresses and more. Data like this can be used to track people.
If law enforcement agencies are given the power to acquire personal data of readers of online articles from media houses then it may simply help governments across the globe to increase surveillance efforts to control their people.