US government gets approval to continue tracking phone records


In June, an order granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to the FBI leaked, revealing that Verizon was handing over millions of private telephone records to the US government. Of course, we later found out that it wasn’t just Verizon giving up user data.

As you may have known, that court order was set to expire today, meaning that the government would no longer be authorized to collect such records. But according to the office of the Director of National Intelligence, FISA has just renewed its authorization…

For those of you unfamiliar with the original FISA court order, here it is: “authorization requiring the production of certain telephony metadata under the “business records” provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), 50 U.S.C. Section 1861.”

At least this time they’re telling us about it. Here’s the press release from the DNI:

“On June 6, 2013, the Director of National Intelligence declassified certain information about this telephony metadata collection program in order to provide the public with a more thorough and balanced understanding of the program. Consistent with his prior declassification decision and in light of the significant and continuing public interest in the telephony metadata collection program, the DNI has decided to declassify and disclose publicly that the Government filed an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court seeking renewal of the authority to collect telephony metadata in bulk, and that the Court renewed that authority.”

Needless to say, the warrantless collection of private data hasn’t sat well with people. And that anxiety multiplied tenfold when it was revealed that Verizon was just one of a number of tech companies participating in a covert government-run monitoring program called PRISM.

Apple itself was specifically named as a ‘willing’ participant of the PRISM program, suggesting that it knowingly handed over user data to the National Security Agency without a proper warrant. But of course, it, like other companies, sharply denied knowledge of the project.

“We first heard of the government’s “Prism” program when news organizations asked us about it on June 6. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer content must get a court order.”

Thursday, Apple joined a coalition of over 60 companies in a fight to push for more government transparency regarding electronic monitoring and surveillance.