If you're feeling a little less…watched this morning, that's no accident: a major National Security Agency surveillance program just ended.
The NSA's bulk collection of telephone metadata ceased as of 11:59 on Saturday night. The metadata program was the first—and, perhaps, the most infamous—of the many top-secret surveillance tactics exposed by Edward Snowden to be revealed to the world in 2013. Under the program, phone companies had to hand over key information about their customers' phone records to the NSA, which stored the information. Snowden's revelation led to an outcry from privacy advocates and ordinary citizens. In response, Congress passed the USA Freedom Act. The bill mandated that, rather than rely on the blanket authority that it used to continually collect data in the past, the NSA get a specific court order before being able to access phone records.
As Engadget pointed out, "The new approach doesn't affect foreign intelligence gathering or internet data collection programs like PRISM, and it won't do much to hold the NSA more accountable for its actions." But it's still significant that a massive spy agency had its powers curbed, even a little bit.
So if you were worried that your every move was being watched by an all-seeing arm of the state, you can breathe just a tad easier from now on. (Though the NSA is still pretty, pretty all-seeing.)