National Security Agency (NSA) stopped the warrantless collection of smartphone location data of US citizens since last year, according to Office of the director of national intelligence.
Government agencies were able to track the cell location of the users under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. However, last year, the Supreme court made a landmark judgment that stopped government agencies to acquire the cell location of users without a probable cause.
Back then, Senator Ron Wyden of Congress wrote a letter to the Director of National Intelligence at that time on how the ruling will apply to authorities.
In a letter sent on November 12th, the office replied that the government agencies have already stopped collecting location data of US citizens without a warrant.
Before the last year’s judgment
It is important to note that the Supreme court judgment stopped authorities from unlawfully collecting location data of users only last year. In other words, NSA and other agencies openly collected large amounts of location data before 2018.
The argument falls in line with former the NSA employee and American Whistleblower Edward Snowden’s recent interviews where he claims NSA to be the devil of privacy in the digital age.
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But authorities are not the only one
As Edward Snowden recently explained how smartphones spy on us, carrier networks are the first ones to know a person’s location.
Snowden has also claimed that big tech giants such as Google and Facebook actively keep track of our location.
Interestingly, Google supported the Supreme court decision to block warrantless cellphone tracking. However, the tech giant has previously been accused of falsifying users about the tracking of location data.
What happens now?
Provisions in the Patriot Act such as Section 215 are going to expire next month, leaving an opportunity for the current government to add reforms around the warrantless collection of location data.
“As the past year has shown, Americans don’t need to choose between liberty and security — Congress should reform Section 215 to ensure we have both.” Ron Wyden said in a statement.
Reportedly, the government might also kill the USA FREEDOM Act which allows authorities to collect massive amounts of call record data. Back in 2018, the New York Times reported that NSA deleted hundreds of millions of call records it obtained from US telecoms.