Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, which authorises bulk collection of phone records, has expired as of 1 June 2015, halting for the time being one of the government’s major tools for mass surveillance.
As EFF notes,
Section 215 now—at least temporarily—reverts to its pre-Patriot Act form, which doesn’t permit any collection of financial or communications records, and requires the Government to provide “specific and articulable facts” supporting a reason to believe that the target is an agent of a foreign power.
Last month, a a three-judge panel in New York ruled that Section 215 does not provide the authority for the bulk collection of domestic phone records.
Journalists, activists and even some politicians widely recognise that Section 215 only became controversial, and therefore subject to reform and expiration, thanks to Edward Snowden’s disclosures of NSA records, generating global debate on the government’s power and how to curb it.
Despite the temporary lapse, the US Senate plans to move forward with a vote this week on the USA Freedom Act, which would move collected phone metadata from government control to that of telecoms.