NSA Ends Bulk Phone Data Collection

NSA Ends Bulk Phone Data Collection

At the end of November, the U.S. intelligence ceased its bulk collection of telephone metadata. Instead, the government will move to a more “focused and targeted” approach in gathering intelligence, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement.

The shift comes more than two years after details about the program were leaked by former National Security Agent contractor, Edward Snowden.  President Barack Obama signed, in June, a reform measure that took away the NSA’s authority to collect in bulk the phone records of millions of Americans.

The USA Freedom Act requires the government to obtain a targeted warrant or court order to collect phone metadata from telecommunications companies, a rule the NSA was not following.

Backers of the program say it was set up to help located suspected terrorist activity since the September 11 attacks. The government accessed times calls were logged, to what number and their duration, or, in other words, their metadata but not their content. Civil liberty groups said the old system allowed the government too much power to snoop on citizens.

Despite the fact that the NSA quit logging calls on November 30, 2015 at midnight, the debate continues.

In the wake of the Paris attacks in early November that left 130 people dead, privacy advocates are pushing back against arguments from the intelligence community that more surveillance powers would have prevented the deadly incident.

Law enforcement and intelligence officials revived arguments that tech companies have stonewalled needed investigations by refusing to provide some form of guaranteed access, or “back door,” to encrypted devices.

No evidence has been made public demonstrating the use of encryption by the attacks, and preliminary reports show that at least some of the terrorists weren’t communicating through encrypted channels.

While intelligence officials insisted that the collection of metadata has contributed to stopping at least 12 potential attacks, other researchers say that even if law enforcement had the access they were demanding it still would not have prevented the attacks.

About the Author

Sydny Shepard is the Executive Editor of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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