Nine Things You Need to Know About the NSA Phone Data Collection Overhaul

The government will still hold onto telephone data, but agencies will be compelled to obtain permission from a secret court before tapping into it.

Photo Credit: Mopic

Today, President Obama is announcing an overhaul of the NSA's mass phone data collection program, based -- in part -- on the appointed review panel's 46 recommendations released last month.

Here are the basic points of the president’s planned overhaul that you need to know:

1. Federal agencies will now be compelled to obtain permission from a secret (FISA) court before tapping into bulk collection telephone data.

2. The bulk phone metadata will stay under the control of the government for now, but at the behest of the review panel, Obama will announce his intention to find another way to hold onto it. The panel had suggested that telecommunication firms store the data, but the industry rejected this responsibility.

3. The government will no longer be able to invoke Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which forces businesses to turn over company records for counterterrorism purposes.

4. The government will still preserve its current technical capabilities to collect telephony information.

5. Privacy safeguards for foreigners will be tightened, particularly for heads of state.

6. There will be a public advocate to represent privacy concerns in the FISA court.

7. The president rejected a central recommendation by his review panel that command of the NSA be partitioned to avoid a centralization of power.

8. The president did not endorse the panel's urging that the NSA 'not in any way subvert, undermine, weaken, or make vulnerable' commercial software, or that the government cease using flaws in that software to launch cyberattacks or surveillance

9. All of the changes were prompted by the disclosures made public by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Aaron Cantú is an investigator for the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and an independent journalist based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @aaronmiguel_
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