US House of Representatives votes to stop NSA’s bulk data collection

The highly debated USA FREEDOM Act, a bill whose purpose is “to rein in the dragnet collection of data by the NSA and other government agencies, increase transparency of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), provide businesses the ability to release information regarding FISA requests, and create an independent constitutional advocate to argue cases before the FISC,” has been backed by the US House of Representatives.

338 representatives voted for the passage of the bill, and 88 against it. The bill already has the support of the White House, and now it remains to be seen if the US Senate will back it.

While supporters of the bill say that the main aim of the bill will be achieved with its passing, opponents say that instead of reigning end dragnet surveillance by government agencies, it will legitimize dragnet data collection – something that section 215 of the Patriot Act didn’t allow, and is, according to Michigan Representative Justin Amash, “in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.”

The bill, in its current form, will shift the responsibility of collection and storage of user metadata to telecommunications companies, but government agencies will be able to demand access to it if they need it for investigations related to terrorism.

Amash argues that it threatens to undo much of the progress resulting from the recent Second Circuit’s ruling that NSA’s bulk collection of telephone metadata associated with phone calls made by and to Americans is illegal.

“Americans, and members of Congress, should demand that Congress instead pass the original, bipartisan version of the USA FREEDOM Act from 2013, which strengthened—not weakened—Section 215’s relevance standard to end bulk collection, while still allowing the government the flexibility it needs to pursue genuine threats against the United States,” he noted.

It’s also good to note that several amendments to the bill which would have added privacy protections to it have not been allowed to be added to it before the voting began.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act is due to expire on June 1, and the debate on whether it should be renewed is heating up.