After Freedom Act Vote Much Must Be Done to Restore Data Privacy
NEWS ANALYSIS: The U.S. Senate passed the USA Freedom Act without amendments and the President has signed it, but despite the celebrations not much has actually changed.
Privacy advocates everywhere are celebrating. The passage of the USA Freedom Act by the Senate and the signing by the President mean that there will be changes to the way the intelligence community collects phone data and the way the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court works— eventually. But now, right after the bill has passed into law, nothing much has changed at all. The government has six months to figure out how to wrap up the process of collecting and storing phone metadata. In addition, the phone companies involved, which means nearly all U.S. phone companies, will be required to store that metadata and to make it available to the intelligence services if served with a warrant requiring it. Unfortunately, it only applies to phone metadata. That metadata can give a good picture of who you call and for how long. If it's analyzed it provides a good picture of your relationships with others and in turn their relationships with even larger groups. But that's all you get with the metadata. There's no question that it invades your privacy if used indiscriminately. But despite everything, it still doesn't show what you actually said.
Another major provision is that the FISC will have to declassify some of its decisions. Exactly how that will work and which decisions will have to be declassified has yet to be determined. Even if the court embraces openness, it will take a while, perhaps a year or two, for it to determine rules and procedures.