The NSA agency was spying on phone calls and social media profiles of an unknown number of users. The NSA also infiltrated popular online gaming and social media communities such as World of Warcraft and Second Life as part of its global surveillance program of Americans and foreign nationals, an effort which collected billions of phone and electronic records, including those of close allies and other world leaders, corporations and even the Pope.
The NSA’s announced that it was ending the bulk metadata collection program was hailed as a victory by many observers.However; the NSA is still going to be collecting the metadata from millions of Americans’ phone conversations. The USA Freedom Act, which replaced the USA Patriot Act provision allowing bulk metadata collection, gave the NSA six months to complete an “orderly transition” to the new regimen. That 180-day period ended on December 1. Now, phone and Internet companies will retain customer data, which the NSA may access if it obtains a warrant from secretive courts set up under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
For instance, instead of bulk collection, “specific selectors” (a phone number, for example) are now required for data collection. The NSA then has six months to request these selectors before again going before the FISA court to seek renewed authority. There are exceptions to even these rules. Chief among these is a request by the NSA to retain its records for the past five years until the end of February 2016. Additionally, an executive order issued by President Ronald Reagan could be interpreted to authorize continued bulk metadata collection if it is “incidentally collected in the course of a lawful foreign intelligence investigation.”