In a move seen to vindicate whistleblower Edward Snowden, the Senate on Tuesday passed the USA Freedom Act, which will end the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.

As the Guardian explains, this is the most significant surveillance reform for decades, “a direct result” of Snowden’s revelations to the paper two years ago. “The passage of the USA Freedom Act,” the Guardian states, “paves the way for telecom companies to assume responsibility of the controversial phone records collection program, while also bringing to a close a short lapse in the broad NSA and FBI domestic spying authorities. Those powers expired with key provisions of the Patriot Act at 12.01 am on Monday amid a showdown between defense hawks and civil liberties advocates.”

READ: Bill Boyarsky: Undercutting the Patriot Act Is a Major Win for Rand Paul and Edward Snowden

Needing only a simple majority to pass, the final tally of the vote showed that 67 senators were in favor of the measure and 32 against.

The vote comes only two days after key parts of the Patriot Act expired, and BBC News compares the two:

What is changing? The expiry of the Patriot Act brings to an end bulk collection of Americans’ phone metadata – who called who, when and for how long, but not the content of calls – by the US. Under its successor, records must be held by telecommunications companies and investigators need a court order to access specific information. Technology companies will be given greater leeway to reveal data requests. The measures are intended to balance concerns on privacy with providing the authorities the tools they need to prevent attacks.

What stays the same? Key parts of the Patriot Act are retained in the Freedom Act. They include the provision allowing the monitoring of “lone wolf” suspects – potential attackers not linked to foreign terror groups, despite the US authorities admitting the powers have never been used. The Freedom Act also maintains a provision allowing investigators to monitor travel and business records of individuals, something law officers says is more effective than bulk collection.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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