Tech firms criticise Obama for "insufficient" NSA controls


by CBR Staff Writer| 20 January 2014

The US President has barred the NSA from accessing phone databases without court's consent.

Tech giants have slammed new restrictions on the NSA by US President Barack Obama as "insufficient".

Obama ordered the NSA to stop collecting data on American citizens, in the wake of a series of disclosures about the extent of the agency's snooping powers.

In addition, intelligence agencies have now been directed to seek a court's consent prior to accessing phone call databases.

Amid the announcement of changes, Obama also ordered his Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, to find a way to store citizen data independent of the government's own storage systems.

However, Obama's latest move was opposed by a coalition of firms including AOL, Apple, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Yahoo.

Ed Black, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association that represents the companies, said: "The president's speech was empathetic, balanced and thoughtful, but insufficient to meet the real needs of our globally connected world and a free internet.

"Crucial details remain to be addressed on these issues, and additional steps are needed on other important issues, so we'll continue to work with the administration and Congress to keep the momentum going and advocate for reforms consistent with the principles we outlined in December."

The group pointed out that there were no specific proposals on their central request demanding the ability to notify users of how much data the firms would be forced to hand over to the NSA.

Tech firms said in joint statement that the commitments outlined by President Obama represent positive progress on key issues including transparency from the government and in what companies will be allowed to disclose, extending privacy protections to non-US citizens, and FISA court reform.

Black added: "We're disappointed he did not completely halt the collection and analysis of bulk metadata.

"We would have liked him to have followed the lead of his appointed review group and call for greater examination of the NSA's subversion of encryption standards, and for changes to the ways in which the NSA can access Americans' content without a warrant."

Recent disclosures revealed that US agencies have gathered and stored about 200 million text messages each day from around the world.

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