The courts are redefining the hot topic of privacy law in today’s digital age. The most recent ruling, American Civil Liberties Union v. Clapper, came in the wake of a series of disclosures by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor. The Guardian revealed that the NSA had asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to order Verizon to produce the telephone metadata for many of its subscribers. This order covered three months of information and included the numbers of both parties on a call, along with the location, time, and duration of the call. The Patriot Act classifies the contents as metadata, and the NSA can obtain the metadata without a warrant. The NSA network secured the telephone metadata indefinitely for its investigations.
The NSA Bulk Metadata Collection Program began shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks. Section 215 of the Patriot Act permits the government “to make an application for an order requiring the production of any tangible things…for an investigation to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a US person or to protect against international terrorism….” The ACLU sought a preliminary injunction against the Government claiming that the bulk metadata collection program violates consumers’ First and Fourth Amendment rights. In response, the Government argued that bulk collection qualifies as business records and therefore falls within the ambit of Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Continue reading