NSA snooping phone records of US citizens

The United States' National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting the smartphone data of millions of Verizon customers, since mid-April.

Under the top secret' court order unearthed by The Guardian, Verizon is obliged to provide the NSA with specific information on a daily basis for a three months.

Information is being collected from citizens regardless of whether they are suspected of committing any crimes. The NSA is permitted to access 'Telephony metadata'. This data includes the originating and receiving numbers, the time, place and duration of the call, as well as the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) of both numbers.

The data covers calls made within the US and calls from the US to other countries. However, it does not include access to calls made by US citizens within foreign countries.

Although the Telephony metadata does not include the content of the call, caller names, addresses or financial information, the NSA is likely to use the information it does receive to piece together a citizen's individual associations and communication patterns.

The data collection started on 24 April and runs up until the 19 July, barring any extensions. It is the first appearance of large-scale, undisclosed domestic data collection by the US government since the Bush administration.

In the UK a proposed "Snoopers Charter" which aimed to monitor UK citizens in a similar way was scrapped after being vetoed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. However, in the wake of the Woolwich terrorist attack, Home Secretary Theresa May hinted that the government may try to resusitate it.