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Obama proposes changes to NSA surveillance

Grant Gross | Jan. 20, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama called for changes to U.S. National Security Agency surveillance, with new privacy advocates assigned to a surveillance court and a transition away from a controversial telephone records collection program in the U.S.

Real reform requires Obama to "end mass collection" of metadata phone records, said David Segal, executive director of digital rights group Demand Progress. "We urge the president to recognize that the public concern is not only over whether mass spying programs are explicitly abused, within standards set by the NSA, but whether these programs should exist at all — whether they are fundamentally compatible with the notion that we live in a free society, a democracy," Segal said in an email.

Obama's call for a transition in the bulk phone records program raises new questions, added Kevin Bankston, policy director of the New America Foundation Open Technology Institute.

"If the ultimate alternative to government collection is mandatory bulk data retention by the phone companies or mandatory bulk handover to a third party, the president should be prepared for a major legislative battle with key members of Congress, the technology industry and the privacy community arrayed against him," Bankston said by email. "Particularly when the president's own review group concluded that the records program is not essential to preventing terrorist attacks ... the right answer here is to stop the bulk collection completely — not to keep the same bulk data under a different roof."

 

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