• AT&T concerned US may force company to retain data
• Tech firms hail ‘positive progress’ on privacy protections

Barack Obama meets with technology executives at the White House. From left: Mark Pincus of Zynga, Marissa Maye of Yahoo!,  and Randall Stephenson of AT&T.
Barack Obama at a meeting with technology executives at the White House. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

US telecoms giants expressed concern Friday about president Barack Obama’s reform of the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of American citizens’ phone records.

In a widely anticipated speech Obama said the government should no longer hold databases of every call record made in the United States, citing the “potential for abuse”. But Obama made clear the intelligence agencies should still be able to access call records information and gave no details of how that information will be stored.

Privately, telecoms executives have expressed concern that they will be forced to retain customers’ metadata – information about call duration, recipients and location. Speaking anonymously, one executive said the firms were concerned about how long they would have to keep data, which government agencies would have access to it and what protections they would have should there be legal challenges to their retention or distribution of the information.

In a statement, the CTIA, the wireless industry trade body, said it welcomed “the president’s efforts to start a dialog to address these important issues, and we look forward to working with the administration, Congress and key stakeholders as they seek to develop policies that strike the appropriate balance between America’s national security interests and the civil liberties of American citizens.

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