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White House wants immunity for telecoms that surrender customer data

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American telecoms already have legal immunity when they cooperate with the government's warrantless wiretapping, and they may soon be in the clear when they supply customer data, too. As The Guardian has learned, the White House is asking for legislation that would grant immunity to anyone obeying requests for phone records once companies are in charge of that information. The request isn't surprising, according to an unnamed senior official -- it's in line with existing measures that shelter companies when they respond to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court orders.

Whether or not the administration gets its way is another matter. House intelligence committee members have written a bill sparing telcos from legal liability, but it's currently stalled; the White House doesn't like that it would let the government demand phone data without a judge's approval. There's also a rival bill that, if it escapes committee, would defund large-scale data collection within the US. However, it's safe to say that carriers will push hard for a law offering immunity. While they don't necessarily believe that scooping up phone records en masse is constitutional, they certainly want to avoid lawsuits.

[Image credit: The White House, Flickr]

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