A man types on a computer keyboard in Warsaw in this February 28, 2013, illustration file picture.
Kacper Pempel/Reuters/Files

NSA ending bulk telephone data collection

The federal government will no longer be able to collect data en masse from Americans’ phone calls starting Sunday, under a bill President Barack Obama signed into law earlier this year that limits the controversial collection of information known as metadata. 

“Beginning Sunday, November 29, the government is prohibited from collecting telephone metadata records in bulk under Section 215, including of both U.S. and non-U.S. persons,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement Friday.

Metadata includes information such as phone numbers and the time of calls, but not that actual substance of the conversations. 

NBC News’ Pete Williams reported on the new protocol for obtaining records:

Beginning Sunday, if the government wants to check on a specific phone number in a potential terrorism case, a request must be made to the relevant telephone company for a check of its own data. The government will no longer retain the information.

A could order is required to access the records.

The NSA is also required to report annually to Congress and the public about the total number or orders issued under the law and the number of targets of such orders, according to the ODNI statement.

The ban comes after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden exposed the federal government’s secret surveillance program in 2013, which has triggered concerns about privacy and national security. 

Some Senate Republicans, including GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio of Florida, had made failed efforts to delay the official ending of the program in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks.  

In a recent interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush said “we need to restore the metadata program,” which was created by his brother and former U.S. President George W. Bush. “I think that was a useful tool to keep us safe.”