US government’s new spying program meets privacy standards says NSA
NSA brings in safeguards to collect data Getty Images

The US government's revised spying programme for collecting domestic citizens' telephone records has passed the muster in terms of privacy and civil standards, the National Security Agency (NSA) claims. The new system, which was implemented in November 2015, has been confirmed as complying with eight privacy safeguards, according to a report published by the Civil Liberties and Privacy Office of the NSA.

The safeguards related to transparency, data minimisation, oversight, data use limitation, individual participation, data quality and security and purpose specification.

Earlier last year, Congress had passed a law which required that the NSA's data collection system undergo a thorough overhaul, effectively ending the reign of its previous unchecked data collection system. The older programme enabled the national security agency to essentially absorb millions of American civilians' phone metadata. Since the regulations related to the previous system were comparatively lax, this allowed the agency more freedom in accessing sensitive information.

However, with Congress's introduction of new security regulations, the agency has had to revise its programme and limit data collection to only phone numbers and time stamps of calls made. Following former NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's exposure of the organisation's data collecting methodologies and content, a presidential committee was assigned the task of reviewing the validity of the NSA's spy programme. It was found to be ineffectual by the committee, according to Reuters, which led to its eventual replacement.

The NSA and other government security agencies are now required by law to obtain a court order and collaborate with tech communications companies like Verizon before the phone records of any individual or groups residing in the US can be accessed or monitored.

The new regulations and programme have received both criticism and praise from US politicians. While some Republicans have questioned the wisdom in shutting down the NSA's bulk data collection programme, others like Texas Senator Ted Cruz, have stood in defence of the new laws. Cruz said the new system has an improved technical upgrade that enables it to collect more calls than before.