US President calls for reform in the collection of metadata… while in Australia law enforcement wants more metada collected

March 26, 2014 |

The world today reports, in Obama says it will take time to regain trust after spying revelations, on the call by the US President to reform the collection of data by government.  Which may have receptive ears in the legislative branch (see here).  The executive has slowly been turning its attention to the collection of metadata.  Very slowly.  Last Friday the President met with tech CEOs on privacy issues (see here)

The report provides:

ELEANOR HALL: The US president Barack Obama has declared that he is determined to win back the trust of citizens who are disgusted by revelations of America’s spying activities.

He urged Congress to pass reforms that would stop unnecessary data collection, but he conceded that it will take time to win back people’s trust in the United States.

North America correspondent Michael Vincent reports.

MICHAEL VINCENT: At the White House last Friday it was tech company chiefs, like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, demanding greater intelligence reforms than president Obama had promised.

Today it was Europe’s leaders surrounding Barack Obama in The Hague.

BARACK OBAMA: I’m confident that everybody in our intelligence agencies operates in the best of intentions and is not snooping into the privacy of ordinary Dutch, German, French or American citizens.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Edward Snowden’s revelations about the America spying on Germany’s leader and her colleagues brought US president Barack Obama to this moment.

BARACK OBAMA: There’s a process that’s taking place where we have to win back the trust, not just of governments, but more importantly of ordinary citizens.

And, that’s not going to happen overnight because I think that there’s a tendency to be sceptical of government and to be sceptical in particular of US intelligence services.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Barack Obama is today urging Congress to get on with finalising reforms.

Back in Washington, Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, gave this assessment:

DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER: Basically what we’re doing is that we’re listening to the American people.

MICHAEL VINCENT: He says they’ve got a solution that the White House is very close to agreeing to, to end the bulk collection of metadata by the US government, meaning only phone companies can store it, and only for 18 months.

DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER: The government will no longer, with our new bill, be able to have the metadata. Now, the metadata was legally, it was not content, but there was a perception issue.

The public, for whatever reason, and there’s been a lot of information out there and a lot of Snowden issues and things of that nature, the public were concerned that the NSA (National Security Agency) or the intelligence community or the government was maintaining information.

All it was was a phone number and the length and duration of a call. So Mike and I knew that we had to deal with the perception; we need to get the confidence of the American people.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Standing alongside him Republican Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a former FBI agent.

Mike Rogers gave short shrift to a question about these reforms validating Edward Snowden’s concerns.

REPORTER: What does this say about Edward Snowden’s concerns; is this in some way a victory, saying that his claims and concerns were correct?

MIKE ROGERS: No, his claims and concerns were absolutely not correct. This was a legal program that had proper oversight; he had five different places he could have taken his concerns; he chose none of them. He took 95 per cent of the information he took, by the way, was related to military, both tactical and strategic information, that we now believe is in the hands of the Russians.

MICHAEL VINCENT: The House Intelligence Committee chairman went on to say that there’s been no abuses of the program or misuse of the information to date.

Mike Rogers says the goal now is to ensure no potential future misuse of the metadata can take place.

MIKE ROGERS: We have two goals here: one is to regain the confidence in Americans for what these programs really are, and it’s really hard to cut through the misinformation on this – a lot of unicorn chasing on this stuff. And, secondly, it has to meet the standard of actually protecting the United States against foreign terrorists communicating in the United States, that’s how we got there.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Republicans and Democrats are now urging their colleagues to go through the fine details of the bills being proposed.

On the related theme of securing communications and internet privacy it is worth reading the recent Guardian peice The principle of privacy is worth fighting for.

Meanwhile in Australia Police, the Australian Crime Commission and ASIO are keen to have Australian telecommunications companies to store metadata (see report here and here) without proposing any specific privacy protections.

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