Obama's phone record proposal gets mixed response

Telcos could bear the burden of collecting phone records if a proposed National Security Agency's U.S. phone-data surveillance program is approved by Congress, reports the Wall Street Journal.

If the new plan is successful, service providers like AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) would continue to store call detail records that could either be searched when government authorities gain a court order or without an order during an emergency.

"I have decided that the best path forward is that the government should not collect or hold this data in bulk," President Barack Obama said in a written statement, saying his approach would provide authorities "the information they need to keep us safe while addressing the legitimate privacy concerns that have been raised."

President Obama's proposal is being met with a mixed response from lawmakers and service providers.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, said that the new rules should be broader in scope. Leahy's proposal calls for a ban on all types of bulk collection.

"The president's proposal is promising, but true reform must be comprehensive," Leahy said. "We must end the bulk collection of phone records, but we also must ensure that other authorities are not used for similar types of bulk collection."

While supportive of the idea of ending bulk phone record collection, Randal Milch, Verizon's executive vice president for public policy and general counsel, said he's concerned that the proposal would place a burden on service providers. "Companies should not be required to create, analyze or retain records for reasons other than business purposes," he said.

Another unnamed telco executive told WSJ that rules around data formatting and how fast data had to be provided to the NSA could require service providers to create special databases to store records. 

For more:
- WSJ has this article (sub. req.)

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