This Bloomberg QuickTake tries to bring us up to speed:
Every step forward in communication -- telegraph, telephone, e-mail -- has been embraced by police and intelligence agencies as a new way of listening in, sometimes within the law, sometimes not. What's different is the shift from targeting individuals to mass collection. In the 1990s, the FBI and others started vacuuming up data from phone calls and e-mails. Snowden's leaks showed how the combination of powerful data analysis tools, a loosened legal framework in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the widespread adoption of smartphones laid the groundwork for data collection on a previously unimaginable scale. The NSA and the FBI still need a warrant to listen to the content of calls, but the metadata they collect about the calls can let them know who you talked to, when, from where and for how long, along with who those people call, and who their contacts call.
And then the debate is summarized here:
An advisory panel appointed by Obama concluded that the phone records program "was not essential to preventing attacks" and a privacy board created by Congress reached a similar conclusion. The officials who oversee the spy programs say they need to compile a giant haystack of data to find needles quickly; they dismiss privacy concerns as overblown. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress that snooping should be measured by a "peace-of-mind metric." Supporters of the bulk collection say it's justified by the 1979 Supreme Court decision, which held that since everyone knew the phone company kept records of their calls there was no expectation of privacy. Critics challenge that interpretation, and say that safeguards that may have been adequate in the days of dial telephones are meaningless in the age of smartphones. Revelations of the agency's use of web bugs raised questions about how much insecurity the NSA was willing to create to keep Americans secure.Read the rest and let us know what you think.
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