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Broadband Roundup: House Passes USA Freedom Act to Rein in NSA, But Key Civil Liberties Groups Defect

in Broadband's Impact/Cybersecurity/Privacy by

WASHINGTON, May 22, 2014 – The House of Representatives passed the USA Freedom Act on Thursday in a 303 to 121 vote, according to Ars Technica, instituting changes to the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of American phone records.

The goal is to end the practice of gathering records of meta-data about the individuals to which and from which nearly all American phone lines made telephone calls. Fox News reported, however, that many civil rights advocates were unsatisfied with changes made to the bill at the last minute.

The measure would require phone companies to hold records for 18 months and “let the NSA search them in terrorism investigations in response to a judicial order.”

U.S. News reported that the negotiation process over the bill “removed oversight and privacy protections from the bill,” and that did indeed cause concern for privacy advocates who said this left the door open for government to spy on people not affiliated with criminal activities.

The Electronic Foundation Frontier said it was dismayed by the changes made to the language of the bill, claiming that it was too “broad” to be relied upon. The organization also criticized the “lack of substantial reform to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act,” as well as the inability to introduce a special advocate in the FISA Court.

EFF further stated that it could not support the bill unless Congress engaged in “uncompromising reform” to the NSA.

Center for Democracy & Technology’s Harley Geiger said that “the USA Freedom Act was a strong reform measure when it was introduced,” but that the bill had been so “watered down in the House Judiciary Committee” that it “may continue to allow mass, untargeted collection of Americans’ private records in the future.”

In other news, The National Journal reported that Sen. Al Franken has asked Comcast to clarfiy its new ad presenting its merger with Time Warner Cable as a benefit to net neutrality. Franken questioned whether Comast will abide by the FCC’s net neutrality conditions after they expire in 2018.

“[Comcast] should explain fully its intentions with respect to net neutrality, not just for the period that runs from now until 2018,” Franken said.

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