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Companies would be in charge of phone records under Obama's new data collection proposal

Jamie Rigg, @jmerigg
March 27, 2014
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The extent to which the NSA collects bulk phone call metadata has been one of the most prominent topics within the ongoing government-surveillance scandal. President Barack Obama promised reform, and not long after, a court approved measures that meant the NSA had to begin formally requesting access to records, and could only stray two degrees of separation from the original target. Today, news from the White House explains how the program could change further (much of which was revealed unofficially a couple of days ago). The proposal, which was drafted following a full review of the program, puts telecom companies in charge of the data, not the government. They'd keep it for no longer than they currently do (around 18 months), but would be "compelled" under court orders to provide records in a "timely manner" and a "usable format."

Once a data request has been court-approved, the powers that be have a window of time in which to solicit records without needing repeated approvals. The hope is that, if approved "with the passage of appropriate legislation," this tweaked program will alleviate some privacy concerns by taking the data out of the government's hands, while still keeping the intel available for when it's needed. As the proposal is only under consideration, the Obama administration will ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) for a 90-day renewal of the current phone metadata collection program, February amendments included.

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