As of last Saturday, 28th November, the US National Security Agency (NSA) has finally stopped directly collecting the information of the phone calls and metadata of millions of US citizens.
A US Justice Department statement released Saturday stated that:
“Final temporary reauthorization of the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata data program in the US expires.”
While the change has been heralded by activists and privacy campaign groups as a major step forward, the Freedom Act has also been seen as a vindication of sorts for Edward Snowden, who leaked the original top secret document that proved the NSA was collecting phone records and meta data en masse both domestically in the US and overseas.
The document leak ignited controversy initially as it was only a month earlier the US Director of National Intelligence claimed there was no such collection of the records of US citizens.
The USA Freedom Act hasn’t stopped the NSA and other closely associated agencies from collecting US citizen metadata by any stretch of the imagination. The NSA can still collect bulk communications from the Internet and social media platforms. The NSA will no longer gather metadata and phone records themselves, but must ask phone companies for the data.
Going forward however, the NSA will only be able to collect metadata and phone records that are relevant to specific investigations, and will have to obtain a court order before doing so. That is unless you are not a US citizen.
The Freedom Act only applies to US citizens. Foreign targets can in theory still have their phone information hoovered up by the NSA.