One of the most infamous signifiers of the post-9/11 era quietly ended on Sunday. The NSA’s bulk metadata collection program, which was first revealed by Edward Snowden over two and a half years ago, lost its legal mandate this weekend; the program, which involved the collection of data about phone calls and text messages such as caller and recipient, time and date, and duration but not the contents, will not be renewed.
According to The Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill, the change is due to government reforms:
From Saturday, the National Security Agency will no longer directly hold information about the phone calls of millions of US citizens. The USA Freedom Act, passed in the summer, allowed the NSA a 180-day transition period to sort out arrangements. That period expired on Saturday. It is modest change but it is at least a change, raising public awareness of the scale of government surveillance and opening the way for privacy campaigners to chip away in hopes of further reforms.
However, telecommunications providers will continue to store this information internally and the NSA or other intelligence agencies can obtain specific records with a court order. This change is a considerable victory for civil libertarians and other parties worried about potential misuse of the communications records of hundreds of millions of Americans by intelligence agencies. Yet some worry that the government could take advantage of legal loopholes and still retrieve such data by collecting it from overseas, reports ZDNet.