"To remedy this, the new law is "technology neutral," said Jeffrey Vagle, executive director of the Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Under the law, the NSA can compel any phone company to provide records in whatever format the government desires, per the warrant. Before, there were some limits on how responsive phone companies had to be.
Vagle said it’s possible that the government could have collected cell phone records through existing avenues, such as emergency request approval by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the 1981 Executive Order 12333, which expanded intelligence-gathering abilities. He added that many tech and security experts think the idea that the government only collected 20 percent of phone records is likely an underestimate.
"Cruz was correct in comparing the USA Freedom Act to the unmodified Patriot Act (the old bulk collection program)," Vagle said. "But if you look at the entire set of tools available to the intelligence community, Rubio was probably correct.""