President Barack Obama announced his plan to end the National Security Agency’s program of collecting telephone metadata on Thursday. Instead, telephone metadata will be stored with telephone companies.
“Having carefully considered the available options, I have decided that the best path forward is that the government should not collect or hold this data in bulk. Instead, the data should remain at the telephone companies for the length of time it currently does today,” Obama said in a statement.
Under Obama's proposal, the NSA would no longer collect metadata from Americans in bulk, as is the current policy. Obama’s official proposal would require the NSA to cease storing telephone metadata on its own servers. If the agency wants to track metadata associated with a specific phone number, it must first seek approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Following approval from the court, telephone companies would provide metadata and technical support to the intelligence agency.
“I believe this approach will best ensure that we have the information we need to meet our intelligence needs while enhancing public confidence in the manner in which the information is collected and held,” Obama said. “I am confident that this approach can provide our intelligence and law enforcement professionals the information they need to keep us safe while addressing the legitimate privacy concerns that have been raised.”
Obama hinted at making the move on Tuesday, but did not announce a specific plan to combat the NSA’s metadata collection program until Thursday. Since Edward Snowden revealed details on the NSA’s data-mining efforts last year, Obama has been under intense pressure to curb the NSA's surveillance program. In January, Obama announced he would reconsider how the agency handles its data-collection programs but shied from announcing any official changes in policy at the time.