If you’re a U.S. citizen under 27 years old, the sunsetting of the USAPATRIOT Act’s Section 215 provision at midnight tonight will mark the first time since before you were a teenager that the U.S. government will not have legal cover to collect data on every phone call you make. (Barring yet more secret interpretations of existing laws.)
Reasonable people can have reasonable debates about what surveillance should be allowed. For example, it’s reasonable to allow police to follow a murder suspect. However, these debates must be had, must be had in public, and must include the public. The USAPATRIOT Act had none of these qualities, and it is high time that some of its sections have now “sunsetted”.
While several portions of the act will likely be reauthorized in the coming days, potentially with some reforms, it is important to not simply accept minor changes as the only possibility. We can – and should – continue to protect privacy as an important civil liberty.