Will Congress Limit NSA Data Collection?

Do you know when and how the government can access your telephone records? Do you care? Do you worry about your personal privacy? Well, there is major legislation on the horizon that will affect how and when your data is collected and retained.

Image courtesy of cuteomatic.com
Image courtesy of cuteomatic.com

On May 22, 2014, the United States House of Representatives passed bill H.R. 3361, the USA Freedom Act, aimed at limiting the federal government’s ability to collect bulk phone records and also increasing transparency. This bill, supported by the President, received bipartisan support. It restricts the data collected from communications companies by the NSA and other intelligence agencies. One of the goals is to minimize the retention and dissemination of non-public data. The House’s approach to data retention is to have telecoms store the data, to be made available to the government, by request. The bill has no mandated retention period. Finally, the bill also extends certain provisions of the USA Patriot Act, scheduled to expire in 2015.

What will the Senate do? It has been almost a month since they’ve received the bill and it has not yet passed.  Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that she wanted to find a way to get the USA Freedom Act (H.R. 3361) passed, though she would prefer that the government, rather than telecom companies, retain the responsibility for storing and analyzing data.

The European Court of Justice recently determined that their data retention law, which is similar to the House’s bill, violates the fundamental rights of citizens. How should this determination play into the U.S.’s data retention law? If its a violation of the fundamental rights–namely privacy–for European citizens, does it violate the fundamental rights of US citizens? How do you want any data collected by your telecom company stored and accessed?  The expiration of portions of the US Patriot Act, as well as the call for data retention, and surveillance reform in the wake of the Snowden leaks raise a lot of questions. Now is the time for the US government to pass legislation that both protects the privacy of citizens and aids in protecting national security.

Get involved in this debate!

For more information about this issue and how the European Court of Justice’s decision factor’s in the debate, read the article I published,  “Does Personal Privacy Matter? Developments in EU and US Data Retention Law” in the American Bar Association’s Information Security & Privacy News.

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