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US House passes bill to end mass collection of phone data

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Washington: The US House of Representatives today voted overwhelmingly to end the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, a controversial programme made public in 2013 by former security contractor Edward Snowden.

The US House of Representatives have passed the Freedom Act, replacing the controversial Patriot Act. The Freedom Act, which now goes to the Senate, extends many parts of the Patriot Act that ends on June 1. The Freedom bill was passed 338 to 88 votes yesterday.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler, senior member of the House Judiciary Committee and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property, said the bill prohibits the intelligence community from engaging in bulk data collection within the US.

“This practice – the dragnet collection, without a warrant, of telephone records and internet metadata – is the contemporary equivalent to the writs of assistance that early American revolutionaries opposed, and that the Fourth Amendment was drafted to address. It has never complied with the Constitution, and must be brought to an end without delay,” he said.

Snowden in 2013 leaked thousands of documents to journalists that reported that NSA for many years have been secretly collecting all records of US landline phone calls.

The House Speaker John Boehner said USA Freedom Act helps in preventing attacks on the US by allowing authorities to monitor terrorists who enter the country, and increasing penalties for those who support them.

“It ensures Americans’ civil liberties are protected by ending bulk records collection and enhancing transparency of the FISA court. In short, this critical measure continues our focus on putting Americans’ priorities first,” he said.

Voting against the bill, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said it does not go far enough to reform the Patriot Act and the overreaching surveillance activities that are currently being conducted.

“Congress should not set precedence by codifying these surveillance programmes that the Federal Courts have ruled are illegal. Congress should let these controversial provisions expire and instead work toward comprehensive reform of the Patriot Act that will truly keep the American people safe and free,” she said.

Welcoming the passage of the Freedom Act, the Software Alliance President and CEO Victoria Espinel said public trust is critical to today’s technology economy, and passing this legislation will strengthen trust in both government surveillance programs and the US technology industry.

“By voting to end bulk data collection and improve transparency in the public and private sectors, the House has taken an important step in ensuring our national security and restoring public confidence. We urge the Senate to take swift action by passing this bill before the expiration of the current authorities,” he said.

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