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Obama’s reform of the NSA surveillance

January 20, 2014

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President Barack Obama has presented his reform of the surveillance activities of the NSA and other agencies on Friday, January 17 in a 45-minute speech at the Department of Justice. The reform follows a wave of criticism stemming from the Snowden leaks, including diplomatic protests, court proceedings and appeal of major technological companies.

The reform has been laid down in the Presidential Policy Directive/PPD-28. The most affected is the collection of phone metadata of Americans. The data will continue to be collected but they will be stored by third parties such as telecommunication providers. NSA and other agencies will also need approval by the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance) Court to access them. They will only be allowed to access data to the second step from the target of the surveillance (whom he/she called; whom those persons called). A panel of civil rights experts will be added to the FISA court to help with deciding of more problematic issues.

President Obama also tackled the issue of surveillance of foreigners. He stressed that the NSA will stop the eavesdropping of leaders of friendly countries and promised that foreigners will benefit from similar protection of privacy as the U.S. citizens without further specifying them.

The reform will also bring more transparency allowing technological companies to publish more data on surveillance of their customers and declassifying more documents related to the surveillance programs.

The speech of President Obama was generally welcomed by privacy activists and representatives of technological companies as a first step towards preserving the basic human rights. However, most of them noted that the reform has to continue and regretted that the mass surveillance programs were only adjusted and not canceled entirely.

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