US spy agencies have lost the legal authority to bulk collect Americans’ phone data after the Senate failed to reach a deal to renew the powers on Sunday.
Libertarian Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul blocked an extension to the Patriot Act, which implemented under the presidency of George W. Bush in the wake of 9/11, and the authority expired at midnight (04:00 GMT).
However, the lapse in powers for the intelligence agencies is likely only to be temporary after the Senate voted to advance the White House-approved Freedom Act, which allows for new forms of data collection.
The bulk collection of data by the National Security Agency (NSA) was first revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013, and has caused much discussion about the interplay between the right to privacy and the need for security services to protect people from terrorist attacks.
The new Freedom Act takes account of some of the problems raised by Snowden’s leaks, and imposes more controls over how and when data can be recorded. However, many still believe that the bulk collection of data imposes too far on the individual freedoms held closely by many Americans.
The Senate can vote on the Freedom Act no sooner than 01:00 on Tuesday, which would have meant over 24 hours without the bulk surveillance after the NSA paused the programme at 15:59 (19:59 GMT) on Sunday.