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Spy agency NSA triples collection of US phone records - official report

Spy agency NSA triples collection of US phone records - official report

The metadata did not reveal the contents of phone calls but did allow the NSA to spy on who people call, when and for how long, as well as the amount of characters used in text messages.

Officials have also cautioned that some records gathered by the N.S.A. are duplicates: A call between an AT&T customer and a Verizon customer, for example, generates records at both companies. This is done by pairing the metadata with publicly available social media information along with other sources.

One of the major "wins" for the privacy activists at the time was that the law was supposed to drastically restrict NSA's collection of phone records. And the number of calls could be higher because it includes foreign calls, or because a search for a person of interest turned up all of their calls, not just calls of interest to investigators.

The government "has not altered the manner in which it uses its authority to obtain call detail records", Timothy Barrett, a spokesman at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which released the annual report, said in a statement. The USA FREEDOM Act only requires the NSA to say how many records were collected, but it doesn't require it to say how those numbers were collected or offer more transparency in general abouts its programs.

The large volume of records generated from a relatively small number of targets is attributable to several factors. In 2017, the estimated number of targets of Section 702 orders stood at 129,080 - up from 89,138 in 2013.

Under Section 702, the NSA collects billions of communications, including those belonging to innocent Americans who are not actually targeted.

"Overall", Jake Laperruque, senior counsel at the Project On Government Oversight, said to ZDNet, "the numbers show that the scale of warrantless surveillance is growing at a significant rate, but ODNI still won't tell Americans how much it affects them".

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