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US Agency Says It Ended Bulk Telephone Data Collection

FILE - The National Security Agency (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Maryland.

A U.S. federal government agency says it has ended its bulk collection of data from the telephone calls of millions of Americans.

The move follows a controversy that erupted with disclosures about the secret program by former government contractor Edward Snowden.

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) in charge of the bulk telephone metadata program is replacing the practice with more tightly targeted surveillance methods, the NSA said in a statement Friday.

The NSA says it ended the program at 4:59 UTC Sunday (11:59 p.m. EST Saturday), replacing it with the new, scaled-back system.

Now, under the USA Freedom Act, if the government wants telephone metadata records, it will have to make a request to the relevant telephone company to check its own data.

The U.S. government is to base its application on a specific person, account, address or device in a way that limits the scope of information sought as much as reasonably practical.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence says the new process allows the United States to be able to identify communications between terrorists abroad and individuals in the U.S. while strengthening privacy protections for all Americans.

"Neither terrorist threats nor Americans' expectations for privacy has receded," it said in a statement.

Under the expiring bulk data program, the government collected information about calls, including their duration and the phone numbers involved, but the content of the calls was not monitored, recorded or collected.

U.S. President Barack Obama said in January that bulk data collection would end. In June Congress formally banned the program, but allowed a six-month transition period that ended at minute before midnight Saturday.

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