InfoSec Seminar: Examining the Anomolies, Explaining the Value: Should the USA's FREEDOM Act's Metadata Program be Extended?

Speaker: Susan Landau

Date/Time: 19-Mar-2020, 16:00 UTC

Venue: Main Quad Pop Up 101



Launched after the 9/11 attacks, the bulk metadata collection program authorized under the USA PATRIOT Act was one of the most controversial programs run by the U.S. Intelligence Community. Under a secret interpretation of the PATRIOT Act, major US carriers provided NSA with Call Detail Records (CDRs) for all telephone calls to, from, and within the US. The public controversy resulting from the Snowden disclosures led to the adoption of the USA FREEDOM Act, which put the telephone companies in charge of collection. Three questions have emerged as Congress examines the law's reauthorization---and they're about efficacy, privacy, and understanding technology. Why did 41 orders in 2016 and 2017 lead, respectively, to the collection of 151 and 534 million CDRs by NSA? What error in collection caused the NSA to decide to throw out three years' worth of collection in 2018? And, given the change in terrorist activity and communications technologies over the ensuing two decades since the passage of the PATRIOT Act, does the program produce anything of substantive value? These are the questions I answer, along with explaining what Congress should have been asking about all along.


Susan Landau is Bridge Professor in Cyber Security and Policy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and the School of Engineering, Department of Computer Science, Tufts University, and Visiting Professor, Department of Computer Science, University College London. Landau works at the intersection of cybersecurity, national security, law, and policy. She has published three books, the most recent of which, Listening In: Cybersecurity in an Insecure Age, came about because of her Congressional testimony in the Apple/FBI case. Landau has frequently briefed US and European policymakers on encryption, surveillance, and cybersecurity issues. She has been a Senior Staff Privacy Analyst at Google, a Distinguished Engineer at Sun Microsystems, and a faculty member at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Wesleyan University. She is a member of the Cybersecurity Hall of Fame and of the Information System Security Hall of Fame, and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the Association for Computing Machinery, as well as having been a Guggenheim and Radcliffe Fellow.

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