After November 28, 2015, the NSA will finally stop tracking your three-hour phone sesh of “No, you hang up!” (Wait, who are we kidding — does anyone even use phones for talking anymore?) Regardless of what you last used your phone for, the time has come for the NSA to make good on its promises to step off your phone lines and halt its controversial bulk data collection program.
This deadline comes after a six-month transition period that ends on Saturday night, months after President Obama (and Congress) called for an end to the NSA’s bulk data collection.
Thanks to the USA Freedom Act, passed in June 2015, the government will no longer have a direct line to the phone activity of millions of Americans. Instead, the government will have to go through phone companies to get information about suspicious behavior of various individuals. (It should be noted that the phone information the NSA was gathering was limited to who was called and where they were, as well as the time and length of the call — not the actual content.)
When the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board looked at the bulk data collection program, they determined that it wasn’t actually preventing any terror threats from coming to fruition: “We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation.”
So what do we know about the NSA spying on your conversations with Grandma? Whistleblower Edward Snowden brought this (and plenty of other NSA dirt) to light back in 2013 when he gave classified government documents to the Guardian.
While the cessation of the NSA’s looking at who you’ve been chatting with is a pretty big deal, the Guardian says that it’s “a first step but a modest one,” because it really only applies to phone calls.
Your social media and internet presence are still fair game for surveillance. Even a GIF could get you in serious trouble.