Privacy laws lacking

On Wednesday, May 13, the House of Representatives approved legislation to end the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of data on United States citizens.

While the end of such a secretive big brother program appears to be a good thing, I cannot stress enough the malignant and convoluted future of bulk data collections.

The New York Times reported that earlier this month, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Section 215 of the Patriot Act could not be interpreted to allow bulk collection of domestic calling records. “The provision of the act used to justify the bulk data program is to expire June 1,” according to the article.  

The Patriot Act is out-of-date, and by a 338 to 88 vote, the House passed a new bill, H.R 2048, or The USA Freedom Act.  

According to the House of Representatives website, the bipartisan bill prohibits the mass collections of data by the NSA and prohibits large-scale indiscriminate collections, such as an entire state, city or zip code.

Additionally, The USA Freedom Act appoints a panel of amicus curie (friends of the court) to guide the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) on matter of national surveillance, and it declassifies past opinions, constructions or interpretations by the FISA.

Other than large-scale collection, the bill says nothing about prohibiting the NSA from requesting data outside of the agency, i.e. gaining recorded data from third parties. Therein lies the danger.

Taking the NSA out of national surveillance means that corporations like AT&T, Sprint and Verizon – especially given their recent $4.4 billion purchase of AOL – will increase their surveillance programs in order to suffice the governmental need. So, if you thought the blatant invasion of privacy or the unchecked authority of big brother was gone, think again.

It is crucial here to know what current recording standards are for telecommunication companies – bear with me.

According to a 2011 chart released by the Department of Justice (DOJ) of the top service providers in the United States, call details are saved anywhere between 18 months to 5 years, text message details are saved from 60 days to 7 years, and IP (internet) session information is saved from 60 days to one rolling year – feeling uncomfortable yet?

Now imagine your images, calls and texts saved for an eternity as telecommunication companies increase the record time to meet governmental demand. 

Essentially, whatever you do on your phone, laptop, tablet or any electronic device connected to a telecommunication provider, is tracked and recorded for far longer than even the battery life of said device.  

In fact, cell phone tracking is so accurate and extensive that the American Civil Liberties Union feels that it violates the court case United State v. Jones – a case demonstrating that Global Positioning Systems (GPS) require a warrant under the Fourth Amendment.

The bottom line is that the House of Representatives has unknowingly and tactlessly fostered greater ambivalence that will no doubt lead the future of national surveillance on the wrong path.