The NSA will be forced to stop collecting phone records for the purposes of evaluation of national security risks by June, unless a new law to replace the current law is passed. The current law under which the NSA collects phone records spanning many years will expire in June 2015.
In what security and online privacy activists online are calling a golden opportunity to roll back some of that power that the NSA has over personal data and metadata, the NSA is set to lose it almost untouchable power to spy on people’s phone records. This is set to happen in one of two ways.
One way through which the NSA is set to lose its unlimited power is if a new law called the USA Freedom Act is passed replacing the current USA Patriot Act, specifically Section 215 which is the section of the law that allows the NSA to collect the phone records under the excuse of safeguarding national security.
The USA Freedom Act was first introduced in the year 2014, the month of May but was shot down in the Senate. This was immediately after the Edward Snowden revelations which showed that the NSA was spying on Americans and world leaders like Angela Merkel. The USA Freedom Act bill also sought to end the practice where the FBI could use letters from the NSA to compel phone companies to give up private records of individuals. The law makers who drafted the bill suggested that the NSA stop issuing those letters.
The need to reign in the NSA has been expressed by the highest office in the land, the Oval office. The president was embarrassed by the actions of the NSA and would like to see its powers reduced as far as intrusion into private communication goes.
The other way through which the NSA could lose its spying power is by failure to pass the US Freedom Act into law by the time the June 1 deadline for the current law expires. If that happens, there is cause for alarm since it is not known how the NSA will carry out its mandate.
While it has been recognized that spying on Americans is an affront on their privacy, the NSA is still in charge of safeguarding the nation against possible external attacks. Therefore, it is important for the NSA to be operating some kind of surveillance.
Now, the situation looks like the NSA will be compelled to reduce or end its spying if things stay as they are. What this means for privacy is that there will be less intrusion since there will be no law to allow that.
That said, it cannot be ruled out that the NSA might continue collecting data without proper legal mandate. In fact, it has to be noted that the agency operate in very dark secrecy and most of its programs are not known.
When asked whether the NSA had stopped some of its spying after the Edward Snowden revelations and the uproar that followed, the NSA’s Robert S. Litt simply said, “That’s classified.”