Bill would alter Patriot Act and FISA


All of a sudden, surveillance seems to be out of vogue.

In the wake of 9/11, the collective mood of the country was vastly different, and the public seemed more comfortable tolerating surveillance and data gathering programs in the name of fighting terrorism. These days, the public remains more ambivalent in general, and you get the sense that more people are at least subtly less comfortable with some government programs, those seen as unduly invasive, though they acknowledge the need for aggressive security measures.

An indication of the shift comes from Congress, where Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, introduced a bill that would require some interesting reforms of the Patriot Act and FISA, two pillars of the post-9/11 compliance landscape. As noted by ComputerWorld, "One measure, for instance, seeks to narrow the scope of Section 215 Patriot Act orders by requiring the government to show both relevance to an authorized investigation and a link to a foreign group or power. Section 215 has been criticized by privacy advocates who claim that the government has used it to obtain private information about people who do not have a direct link to terrorists." The proposal would also allow people to legally challenge nondisclosure orders and expand public reporting on the use of so-called national security letters---two big issues as of late. 

The government massive meta-data surveillance operation was conducted under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, for phone call metadata, and Section 702 of FISA, for data content collection.

In the end, some tweaks may well be necessary to the two acts. It will be interesting to see how companies react.

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