Obama’s NSA Overhaul Requires Phone Carriers to Store More Data

Photo Credit: REUTERS / JIM URQUHART

Photo Credit: REUTERS / JIM URQUHART

President Barack Obama’s plan for overhauling the National Security Agency’s phone surveillance program could force carriers to collect and store customer data that they are not now legally obliged to keep, according to U.S. officials.

One complication arises from the popularity of flat-rate or unlimited calling plans, which are used by the vast majority of Americans.

While the Federal Communications Commission requires phone companies to retain for 18 months records on “toll” or long-distance calls, the rule’s application is vague for subscribers of unlimited phone plans because they do not get billed for individual calls.

That could change if the Obama administration pushes through with a proposal to require carriers – instead of the NSA – to collect and store phone metadata, which includes dialed numbers and call lengths but not the content of conversations. Under the administration’s proposal, the phone companies would be required to turn over the data to the NSA in response to a court-approved government request.

U.S. officials said the carriers might be forced to create new mechanisms to ensure that metadata from flat-rate subscribers could be monitored. They said these issues will require further discussion between the White House, Congress and industry.

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