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Mass. officials welcome Obama’s NSA changes

January 18, 2014

BOSTON (AP) — Some state officials and privacy advocates on Friday welcomed President Barack Obama’s announcement of changes in the way intelligence officials access millions of phone records but warned of the continuing potential for abuse.

Obama ordered new limits on the way intelligence officials can access the records and moved toward eventually stripping the massive data collection from the government’s hands.

U.S. Sen. Edward Markey said he’s pleased with the initial steps but there’s much more to be done. The Massachusetts Democrat, a co-founder of the Bi-Partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, said phone companies shouldn’t have to keep more consumer information than they need for business and he’ll introduce legislation to develop new data retention rules.

Markey said he also plans legislation to regulate law enforcement use of personal mobile-phone data and wireless surveillance.

Kate Crockford, a technology director of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the changes the Democratic president announced aren’t reassuring because the next administration could change them again. She said nothing in the proposals would stop the National Security Agency from stealing data from U.S. Internet companies or tapping fiber-optic communication cables.

State Attorney General Martha Coakley said she understands the concerns about NSA surveillance and believes search warrants should be obtained from judges before information can be accessed.

“I think government should never be allowed to do anything for any long period of time that is not reviewable,” said Coakley, who added that a balance must be found between privacy and protecting the country from threats.

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