The NSA’s telephone record program, conducted under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, allows it to collect metadata of phone calls, including phone numbers, time stamps, and other identifying information. While this information may seem benign, many organizations and outlets, including EFF , have demonstrated how things like time stamps, phone numbers, and the GPS coordinates of where calls were made can be stitched together to reveal potentially compromising information about a person. Metadata can, for instance, have dire consequences for vulnerable populations who fear retribution for political beliefs, or whose metadata could be used in immigration enforcement.
With Section 215 up for re-authorization in December, these two instances prove that it’s time to let the NSA’s permission to sweep up phone records expire. If Section 215 is allowed to be reauthorized, accidents like this—in which an unthinkable amount of our personal data winds up in the hands of the government—will continue to happen.