What you need to know about the government\’s renewed surveillance law

What you need to know about the government\’s renewed surveillance law

The recently renewed foreign-intelligence surveillance law has privacy advocates spooked — not for what it would do to people from other countries, but because of how it can allow the warrant-free collection and use of U.S. citizens’ own data.

Renewing the National Security Agency’s “Section 702” authority became so controversial that even President Donald Trump denounced it in a tweet. Within hours, though, the White House had walked that back, and on Friday Trump signed a bill extending 702 authority through 2023.

The government pledges not to abuse this power. But you can’t blame Americans for worrying that their conversations might get swept up in surveillance, because it will remain difficult to confirm the government plays by its own rules.  

What 702 allows

This section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — added in a 2008 law, then renewed in 2012 — governs NSA tapping of communications of foreign nationals from inside the U.S. An April 2017 document from the office of the Director of National Intelligence cites such 702 successes as the identification of an al-Qaeda sympathizer later recruited as a source.

This surveillance, however, may incidentally scoop up data from Americans and U.S. permanent residents in the U.S. or abroad — none of whom the NSA may intentionally target, and all of whom retain Fourth Amendment rights against government searches.

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