Back in 2006, senior U.S. officials advised that the NSA was collecting almost all calls made by Americans, but on a recent Washington Post report, the National Security Agency has been unable to keep up with the fast growth of cellphone usage in the country.
It was a popular belief that the agency was able to collect all data with ease and efficiency, yet this new information now brings up the question of how effective their systems really are. Latest reports show that only 20 to 30 percent of mobile phone call data was collected. Industry officials said that such a low figure can be explained if we take into account internet-based calls.
The agency has effective systems for land-line networks, and with an ever growing portion of the population migrating from landline services to mobile, they will be pushing for a shift themselves. Industry reports show that land line usage has dropped from 141 million users in 2008 to 96 million users in 2012. Cell phone users on the other hand, jumped from 255 million in 2007 to 326 million in 2012.
Of course, it’s very likely this issue will be addressed with a solution underway to collect all call records from various cellphone providers. For now, the conversations themselves are not being collected, but the future is uncertain. NSA is now preparing an appeal to the court, requesting more access to cellphone calls as well as a mandatory rule for all telecommunications companies to hand over call records. It is known that many of these companies do not provide requested records to the agency.
Many people have now spoken against the measures in place, questioning the program’s effectiveness, legitimacy and pointing to the inconsistency of their claims. Even so, the NSA continues to defend the program vigorously. “It’s better than zero.” “If it’s zero, there’s no chance.” Said Rick Ledgett, NSA Deputy Director, in a recent interview. A former senior official said that although 100 percent of call collection is very important, having data collected across different vendors in a given geographical area is still valuable.
The public concerns continue to grow and the question of this being useful or not remains. The concerns over the danger this presents are not diminishing. Obama has called for significant changes to be made in the way phone records are collected, but it remains clear that the agency is not backing down. The Justice Department will have until March 28 to propose a new way for data collection and storage to be done outside of government control. This has not appeased the concerned public who see moving the data from one handler to another is not the solution.
Officials continue to claim the need to collect all records.