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Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which the US Congress must vote to reauthorise by December to prevent it from lapsing under a sunset clause, allows US intelligence agencies to carry out warrantless spying on foreigners’ email, phone and other online communications.
While US citizens have some protections against warrantless searches under the Constitution, the government has maintained that these rights do not extend to foreigners overseas, giving its agencies practically free rein to snoop on their communications. Information may also be turned over to US allies like the United Kingdom and Australia.
“It is a case of ‘rules for thee but not for me,’” Asher Wolf, a tech researcher and privacy advocate based in Melbourne, Australia, told Al Jazeera.
“So the noise the Americans are making about TikTok must be seen less as a sincere desire to protect citizens from surveillance and influence operations, and more as an attempt to ring-fence and consolidate national control over social media,” Wolf said.