This week President Obama announced some potential changes to the controversial data monitoring carried out by the National Security Administration. The public responded with a resounding, “So what?”
According to a Pew Research Center/USA Today poll released Monday, most people still oppose the agency’s collection programs and half of respondents hadn’t even heard about the president’s proposed changes.
Even those who had heard of the changes weren’t particularly impressed. Seventy-three percent of the more well informed respondents felt the changes would make no difference in protecting privacy, and 79 percent of respondents said the changes would not make it more difficult for the NSA to fight terrorism.
Late last week in a speech at the Justice Department, Obama revealed sort-of plans for reforming the NSA’s data collection programs he said would balance the nation’s security needs with concerns over privacy.
So what are these changes no one cares about? Here’s a summary:
1. The Administration may allow an opposing voices in the secret intelligence court
You know that super-secret court (called, more specifically, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) where the government asks permission to gather information on U.S. citizens and, well, everyone else? Well right now, no one gets to argue against the government. Obama announced plans to potentially allow a second side, but gave away no real details on what that would look like.
2. The NSA won’t have control over stored data
Obama also said that the NSA will no longer retain control of stored Internet and phone records collected from Americans. Again, no idea yet who will control these records. He’s asked Congress, the Justice Department and the Intelligence Community to look into it.
3. We might stop spying on our allies
Saying the administration was taking the “unprecedented step” of developing privacy safeguards for non-citizens living abroad, Obama said he’d limit the level of spying on other world leaders, especially those we like to call friends.
4. Letters to tech company’s demanding information may no longer be permanently secret
For a while now, the administration has been sending letters to tech companies demanding they turnover information about their users without ever uttering what was asked for to anyone. Well, Obama said he wants to give companies more latitude to release the type of information the government has asked for. You might notice a pattern here, but – again – he gave no specifics on what exactly they would be able to reveal.
Regardless of how exciting these sound — and 73 percent of people would tell you they don’t sound exciting at all — it will be a while before we get any specifics, if, of course, we ever do.