US president Barack Obama will command the National Security Agency (NSA) to stop storing data from American citizens’ phones, after leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden left the White House with no choice but to act in order to change the perception of the US’s intelligence gathering activities.
The latest revelations, published in The Guardian newspaper, suggest that the NSA had collected and stored 200 million text messages from mobile phone users around the world every day, and allowed British spy agency GCHQ to access some of data it gathered.
The programme, codenamed Dishfire, allows the NSA to snoop on information including missed call alerts, user location as a result of travel alerts and financial information from bank messages and receipts of financial transactions.
Reports suggest that Obama has moved to dispel US citizens’ privacy concerns. However, instead of scrapping the storing of data altogether, the US president is to call for a third party to store the data and for the NSA or FBI to get approval from a secret surveillance court known as FISA, before it can gain access to it.
The president is expected to leave the details of the implementation of the new storage system to Congress and the intelligence agencies.
Privacy groups fear that the NSA and FBI will still be able to access the data with relative ease, and say that the government should impose greater restrictions on the intelligence agencies to ensure that innocent citizens’ data has not been gathered and analysed alongside that of suspected criminals.
Prime minister David Cameron is said to have been briefed on the review of NSA activities.