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Obama administration to overhaul NSA spying

The new proposal would end bulk collection of phone records

Technology trends and news by Faith Merino
March 25, 2014 | Comments
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/35de

So, no one really likes this whole NSA spying thing. It’s messy, it’s rude, it’s tasteless… Obama has listened to the people and said, “Okay. Let’s scrap it.” More or less.

The Obama Administration is reportedly gearing up to call for an end to the NSA’s bulk phone record collections, according to a New York Times report. The proposal would be a pretty significant overhaul and would allow phone companies to keep the data on their customers’ calling habits. They also wouldn’t be required to hold onto those records for longer than necessary.

To access specific records, the NSA will have to do it the old fashioned way: through legal channels. If the proposal passes, the NSA will be required to get permission from a judge before it can go phone-record diving.

Currently, the NSA holds onto phone record data for five years. Phone companies are required to hold onto records for 18 months, but the Obama Administration had been considering a mandate that would require companies to hold onto records for five years. Many phone companies protested the possibility of having to bear the responsibility of holding onto records for five years. But ultimately, it was deemed a moot issue and intelligence agencies determined that older data really wasn’t that important.

The new proposal would require phone companies to quickly provide call data under court order, and to continue to provide data on requested customers on a continuing basis after receiving the court order.

The catch: the NSA will still be able to demand call data on callers up to two “hops” away from a caller deemed suspicious—even if those callers are customers of other phone companies. So you might just be minding your own business, doing laundry and taking your kid to Gymboree while the NSA is analyzing your calls because you recently got in touch with an old college friend who may also be friends with Rick the suspected terrorist.

The current court order authorizing the NSA’s collection habits expires on March 28, and President Obama said in a speech in January that he wanted to see an end to bulk phone record collection by the NSA. As part of the proposal, the administration is going to ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to renew the current program for another 90 days, after which it will undergo some big changes.

The bulk call data collection has been widely criticized due to the fact that officials have yet to point to a specific circumstance in which doing so has actually prevented a terrorist attack. 

Nothing yet on when the NSA will stop collecting data on email and Internet habits.


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