Reprinted from The Guardian
Many politicians held their nose and voted for the USA Freedom Act in June, hoping that the Snowden revelations would recede into the distance with the modest NSA reform bill's passage. How wrong they were: the Snowden effect continues to ripple throughout the world on matters of privacy and law and it's possible this second wave is only beginning.
On Tuesday, in a landmark decision, the European Court of Justice invalidated the "safe harbor" provision between the United States and Europe that allowed large tech companies like Google and Facebook to move large amounts of private Europeans' data into servers in the United States. The case was brought by privacy activist and lawyer Max Schrems after the initial stories about the NSA's Prism program. As the New York Times reported, the court "made it clear that American intelligence agencies had almost unfettered access to the data, infringing on Europeans' rights to privacy."
While the ruling will largely be symbolic (more on that later), the symbolism could not be more striking: Tuesday's court ruling was only the first in a string of court cases that could mark the second wave of the post-Snowden era. It's clear privacy activists won't be satisfied with mild changes to just one aspect of the United States government's vast spying apparatus and the Snowden leaks have opened the floodgates to changes not previously thought possible.
In the US, there are still a series of lawsuits alive and well that are challenging different aspects of the NSA's surveillance. Wikipedia was just in court, represented by the ACLU, arguing that the NSA's "upstream" surveillance program -- where the spy agency has access to entire Internet streams coming into and out of the country -- is illegal and unconstitutional. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (my former employer) has a case in the 9th Circuit challenging the constitutionality of the same program, focused on the expansive and secret partnership between AT&T and the NSA that has allowed the spy agency to siphon off huge amounts of data right off AT&T's fiber optic cables all over the country.