When Edward Snowden, formerly a contractor with the National Security Agency, released intelligence documents, the NSA’s phone data collection was just one controversial spying activity to come to light. The NSA program’s documents, upon a partnered examination from The Guardian and the UK Channel 4 News, showed that the NSA collects nearly 200 million text messages per day from all around the world.
From these texts, the NSA can pull locational data, contacts, credit card information. It was also shown that the UK Government Communications Headquarters used the utilized the NSA database in order to look into metadata at “untargeted and unwarranted” interaction from those in the UK — as reported by The Guardian. The NSA program, which is codenamed “Dishfire,” is said by GCHQ documents to collect “pretty much everything it can” in a indiscriminate and broad way. Surveillance is not limited to specific individuals or organizations.
Now, President Barack Obama will be demanding that the intelligence community — that means you too, NSA — get the green light from a secret court before delving into the collection of phone data, according to the New York Times. The data itself will not be moved to telecommunications companies, but will instead remain in the government’s hands for the moment. Phone companies are somewhat relieved, undesirous of the extra work, bad PR, and potential lawsuits.
The president is set to give a speech Friday on how the NSA will be limited in its surveillance powers in future, a decision that most believe will seek to please those with security concerns, and those with privacy concerns — a difficult balance to strike. “The president believes that the 215 program addresses important capabilities that allow us to counter terrorism but that we can and should be able to preserve those capabilities while addressing the privacy and civil liberties concerns that are raised by the government holding this metadata,” an official told the New York Times.
“The president will say that he is ordering a transition that will end the Section 215 telephone metadata program as it currently exists and move to a program that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata,” said the official.