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NSA reform proposal under criticism

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US civil liberties advocates have criticized the new proposal announced Thursday by the White House to end the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk collection of information about Americans’ cellphone usage.

Under the plan, proposed by President Barack Obama, cellphone companies would be required to provide metadata only on specific numbers when ordered by a court.

Civil liberties advocates said Obama was allowing the NSA too much discretion by letting it review data from numbers two “hops” removed from the targeted phone.

Under the proposal, the super spy agency could investigate all the numbers that had been in touch with the targeted phone – the first “hop” – plus all the numbers that the owners of those phones had contacted – the second “hop,” according to The Sacramento Bee.

Mike German of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University said, “Being ‘two-hops’ from a suspicious person should not subject innocent Americans to a government data grab.”

“The president’s proposal fails to address, and in fact perpetuates, the collection of completely innocent Americans’ data for inclusion in the NSA’s ‘corporate store,’ where it can be used for myriad purposes, not just terrorism,” he said.

In addition, cellphone providers also criticized the president’s proposal, which would require the phone companies to keep records for 18 months, something already required by federal law. Under its now-abandoned program, the NSA had been keeping the records for five years.

“The reformed collection process should not require companies to store data for longer than, or in formats that differ from, what they already do for business purposes,” Randal Milch, the executive counsel for Verizon, one the country’s largest cellphone providers, said in a statement Thursday.

“If Verizon receives a valid request for business records, we will respond in a timely way, but companies should not be required to create, analyze or retain records for reasons other than business purposes,” Milch added.

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