Court gives the NSA permission to continue phone metadata collection for now

court rules nsa resume phone metadata collection building headquarters
Headquarters of the NSA at Fort Meade, Maryland. NSA
In a decision that is sure to irk privacy advocates, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruled that the National Security Agency (NSA) can temporarily resume its once-secret bulk collection of Americans’ phone metadata, reports the New York Times. However, after 180 days, the NSA will still have to end the practice as per the Freedom Act.

The NSA’s phone data collection program originally ended on June 1, when Section 215 of the U.S. Patriot Act expired. President Barack Obama then signed the Freedom Act, which shifted phone data collection from the NSA’s hands to phone companies’, two days later. His administration also applied to restart the program for six months after the bill was signed to give the agency time to transition the program.

The Freedom Act amended Section 215 to require the government to define a “specific selection term,” such as a phone number, to access the phone companies’ records. The law also forbids the collection of “all call detail records” held by phone companies.

All of this was done in response to a ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which stated that Section 215 could not be interpreted as allowing any kind of bulk collection. However, the Freedom Act did not include any language to address the ruling, so it remained unclear whether the data collection was legal or not.

Then, in late June, Judge Michael W. Mosman stated that the program could resume for the remaining 180 days granted by the Freedom Act and argued that the Second Circuit was wrong in saying that the program was not authorized to collect that data.

“Second Circuit rulings are not binding on the FISC and this court respectfully disagrees with that court’s analysis, especially in view of the intervening enactment of the U.S.A. Freedom Act,” wrote Judge Mosman in his 26-page decision.

In response, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stated that it will ask the Second Circuit Court — which initially ruled against the NSA program — to issue a temporary injunction to prevent the resumption of the program. Of course, even if the NSA is forced to stop metadata collection, that doesn’t mean all of its programs will be gone for good.

Even the Freedom Act, which Senator Ron Wyden (D-Or.) hailed as “the most significant victory for Americans’ privacy rights in more than a decade,” still includes questionable provisions, such as the “roving wiretap” and “lone wolf.” These provisions allow local and federal law enforcement to track and tap an individual’s activities and devices, even if there aren’t proven links between the user and any known terrorist organizations.

Mobile

Ditch your smartphone for a year and win $100k from Vitaminwater

Vitaminwater is willing to part with $100,000 if you're willing to part with your smartphone partner for a year. Could you last for a year armed with only a 1996-era phone? Here's your chance to find out.
Mobile

OnePlus's 5G phone should arrive in May 2019, may cost up to $850

OnePlus will be among the first companies to put the new Snapdragon 855 processor into a phone, and will also release a separate and more expensive 5G phone in 2019 with the help of U.K. network EE.
Mobile

The Galaxy A8s is Samsung's first with a hole-punch camera cutout

Samsung is building exciting, technologically innovative midrange phones, and the latest to be revealed is the new Samsung Galaxy A8s, which may give us an idea of what the new Samsung Galaxy S10 will look like.
Mobile

Put down the controller and pick up the best phones for gaming on the go

Which phones are the best if all you want to do is play some mobile games? We've done the hard work and put together a list of the best gaming phones on Android and iOS, so you can keep playing and winning.
Mobile

Quirky smartphone accessories you never knew you needed

Looking for a few accoutrements to make your smartphone even better? If you, or someone you know, is a sucker for accessories, you'll want to check out our collection of quirky smartphone accessories you never knew you needed.
Music

Here's our head-to-head comparison of Pandora and Spotify

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Deals

Walmart drops prices on Apple Watches and other fitness trackers

Smartwatches, fitness trackers, and wearable heart rate monitors from Apple, Samsung, Fitbit, and Garmin are popular gifts. Wearables are smarter and more capable than in earlier years. We found the best wearables deals on Walmart.
Wearables

The best Wear OS watches

There are a ton of different Wear OS watches out there, but which one's right for you? No matter what you're looking for from a smartwatch, here are the best Wear OS watches out there.
Emerging Tech

Capture app saves money by 3D scanning objects using iPhone’s TrueDepth camera

Capture is a new iPhone app created by the Y Combinator-backed startup Standard Cyborg. It allows anyone to perform 3D scans of objects and share them with buddies. Here's how it works.
Home Theater

How to master your equalizer settings for the perfect sound

You may know what an EQ is, but do you know how to adjust equalizer settings for the best possible sound? We go through the basics of the modern EQ and lay out some guidelines for how to achieve tip-top sound from your system.
Mobile

How to switch from iPhone to Android: The ultimate guide

If you've decided to bridge the great tech divide and leave Apple's walled garden for the unknown shores of Android, then you'll find all the tips and advice you need to begin switching from an iPhone to an Android device.
Smart Home

This device detects when your pet is at the door and opens it for them

Tired of waiting for your dog to come inside, or running home in the middle of the day to let your four-legged friend out? Wayzn automatically opens sliding doors for your dog and gives you remote control.
Mobile

Apple pushing update to iPhone in China in response to legal troubles

Apple has been facing legal issues in China due to alleged infringements of patents from Qualcomm Inc. On Friday, Apple announced it will push a software update in China in hopes of resolving any potential legal issues around the iPhone.
Mobile

Need a quick battery boost? Try one of our favorite portable chargers

Battery life still tops the polls when it comes to smartphone concerns. If it’s bugging you, then maybe it’s time to snag yourself a portable charger. Here are our picks of the best portable chargers.