On Tuesday, May 5, a new bill was introduced to Congress to severely limit and debilitate the ability of the N.S.A. (National Security Administration) to spy on domestic communications. In the recent past, much to the American population’s horror, the N.S.A. has been caught wiretapping into domestic phone calls as well as capturing unfathomably large quantities of data about the general population. All of this information is collected in bulk and sent to massive databases that the N.S.A. can use tools to search for and browse through your information. Furthermore, the N.S.A. works with industry leaders to capture communications such as emails and other private communications. This was brought to the general public’s attention when whistle-blower Edward Snowden released shocking N.S.A. secrets and documentation.
The End Warrantless Surveillance of Americans Act has been introduced to prevent the US government from further compromising the online privacy of its citizens. This bill would absolutely prohibit the federal government and governmental agencies from searching through these databases without a warrant. Excitingly and interestingly enough, it would also prohibit the government from mandating the creation of backdoor access into common consumer and commercial products to gather information. In addition, the new bill will prevent the federal government and its agencies from using domestic companies to facilitate its wiretapping scandals, as it has done in the past. Previously, the government has used monitoring and information gathering software in coordination with companies like Google and Yahoo to collect sensitive data. Fortunately, if the bill is passed, this will all come to an end. It seems that we are finally on the right track to domestic online privacy from the government.
Though it was unknown to the general public that the N.S.A.was monitoring them, it was certainly understood by numerous governmental agencies that they had the legal right to collect information about citizens. Representative Ted Poe stated, “Right now, under Section 702 the government is allowed to snoop and spy on the content of a citizen’s phone calls, texts and emails; all without a warrant.” He then went on to describe Section 702 as a ‘gaping loophole’ that leaves the vast majority of Americans unprotected online. Unfortunately, you need to understand that the new bill will not cause the government to forfeit or delete any previously collected data or even prevent them from using new methods to collect data.
To better illustrate this point, think of the databases that contain all of the domestic communications, texts, and emails as a vault. Before the introduction of the bill, the vault was never locked and the N.S.A. could steal information from the vault as they pleased. If the bill is passed, the vault we be safeguarded and locked from N.S.A.spies unless they have the combination to the vault (i.e. a warrant).
But what does this mean for your online privacy? Firstly, understand that the bill has not been passed yet, it has only been introduced. In the short term, the Internet is still the Wild West with regards to who can steal your data online (even the government). Even after the bill is passed, though, you still need to be incredibly diligent in your efforts to protect your online privacy. The US government certainly isn’t the only institution prowling around online to steal your personal information!
If you’re in the USA and worried about your privacy, read our reviews of the best VPN providers for us in the Unites States of America.