Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authorizes the warrantless collection, use, and dissemination by the U.S. government of communications content and metadata. It covers electronic communications stored by U.S. internet service providers or traveling across the internet’s “backbone,” as well as telephone calls. Section 702 was promoted as a narrow surveillance authority limited to the communications of non-US persons located outside of the US to help fight terrorism.
However, the statute is used to collect the communications of tens of thousands of people for broad purposes that go well beyond fighting terrorism. “Backdoor” searches of communications collected under Section 702 target Americans’ communications. Section 702 will expire on December 31, 2017, unless Congress re-authorizes it. CDT is working with a broad coalition of stakeholders to support reforms to Section 702 that strengthen the statute’s privacy and civil liberties protections and increase transparency.