The United States Congress has until March 15 to find a way to deal with the expiration of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). A new bill with bipartisan support offers a way forward while limiting the scope of the extensive mass data gathering the country has been conducting for years using the much-criticized PATRIOT Act.
The fact that both parties in the United States Congress have representatives supporting Safeguarding Americans’ Private Records Act’ (SAPRA) means that it will be easier for it to get out of committee hearings and to be adopted before March 15 rolls around.
SAPRA is designed to change a lot of measures associated with Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. The bill would end the Call Detail Records Program, which has been used to collect information on phone calls for millions of people and will introduce more transparency into the court process that allows the government to request private information.
The lawmakers also want the intelligence community to publish yearly reports that will give the public a look at how many personal details they are gathering and how they are using them. This is an excellent way to inform the public about their rights and the importance of keeping as much personal info as private as possible.
The team at the Electronic Frontier Foundation offers a more thorough analysis of the new SAPRA. The organization that has fought for privacy rights since the PATRIOT Act was introduced believes that the reforms contained in the bill are very much needed, although not perfect.
PATRIOT Act has enabled massive data tracking
The United States of America has enacted a raft of new measures to boost the data gathering capabilities of its intelligence agencies after the September 11 attacks, trying to make sure that it has the information required to stop terror plots.
Unfortunately, as Edward Snowden has shown and other independent reports have confirmed, a lot of private information is gathered even if it is in no way related to threats to the US, and innocent citizens are often affected.
The rise in the use of Virtual Private Network solutions and other solutions, like TOR, is easy to trace to this increased surveillance regime. But even the best software solutions cannot keep data out of the hands of governments.
The United States is a liberal democracy that does not place restrictions on Internet use and free speech online, as shown in a report from the makers of ExpressVPN. However, there are still significant concerns about the PATRIOT Act, FISA, and their potential nefarious use.
More than a quarter of Internet users deploy a VPN solution at least some of the time. That percentage is unlikely to drop regardless of changes to the surveillance measures implemented by governments. More people should choose a solution that works for them and use it every time they connect to the Internet.
Readers looking for more information about the surveillance deployed by countries around the world can get details in our article about the 5, 9, and 14 Alliances.