NSA to shut down bulk phone surveillance program by Sunday

NSA To End Bulk Spying On Americans This November

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The U.S. National Security Agency will end its daily vacuuming of millions of Americans' phone records by Sunday and replace the practice with more tightly targeted surveillance methods, the Obama administration said on Friday.

As required by law, the NSA will end its wide-ranging surveillance program by 11:59 p.m. EST Saturday (4:59 a.m. GMT Sunday) and expects to have the new, scaled-back system in place by then, the White House said.

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The transition is a long-awaited victory for privacy advocates and tech companies wary of broad government surveillance at a time when national security concerns are heightened in the wake of the Paris attacks earlier this month.

It comes two and a half years after the controversial program was exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The move, mandated by a law passed six months ago, represents the greatest reduction of U.S. spying capabilities since they expanded dramatically after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

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NSA to shut down bulk phone surveillance program by Sunday
A man is silhouetted near logos of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and Wikipedia in this photo illustration taken in Sarajevo March 11, 2015. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo
An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland. NSA/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks following a meeting with his National Security Council at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
UNITED STATES - FEB. 9 - From left, National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers, FBI Director James Comey, Director of the National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
A man crosses the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) logo in the lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, on August 14, 2008. AFP PHOTO/SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) logo is displayed in the lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, on August 14, 2008. AFP PHOTO/SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 02: Detail of the cufflinks of former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell as he testifies before the House Select Intelligence Committee April 2, 2014 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony on the topic of 'The Benghazi Talking Points and Michael J. Morell's Role in Shaping the Administration's Narrative.' (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 02: Former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell is sworn in prior to testimony before the House Select Intelligence Committee April 2, 2014 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony on the topic of 'The Benghazi Talking Points and Michael J. Morell's Role in Shaping the Administration's Narrative.' (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
A picture taken on February 25, 2015 shows the logo of Gemalto in Paris. European SIM maker Gemalto said it had suffered hacking attacks that may have been conducted by US and British intelligence agencies but denied any 'massive theft' of encryption keys that could be used to spy on conversations. AFP PHOTO KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
Visitors gather in the Gemalto NV pavilion at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. The Mobile World Congress, where 1,500 exhibitors converge to discuss the future of wireless communication, is a global showcase for the mobile technology industry and runs from Feb. 25 through Feb. 28. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Gemalto CEO Olivier Piou (C) arrives for a press conference on February 25, 2015 in Paris. European SIM maker Gemalto said it had suffered hacking attacks that may have been conducted by US and British intelligence agencies but denied any 'massive theft' of encryption keys that could be used to spy on conversations. AFP PHOTO KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
Gemalto CEO Olivier Piou (C) gives a press conference on February 25, 2015 in Paris. European SIM maker Gemalto said it had suffered hacking attacks that may have been conducted by US and British intelligence agencies but denied any 'massive theft' of encryption keys that could be used to spy on conversations. AFP PHOTO KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
Gemalto CEO Olivier Piou shows a cell phone sim card before a press conference on February 25, 2015 in Paris. European SIM maker Gemalto said it had suffered hacking attacks that may have been conducted by US and British intelligence agencies but denied any 'massive theft' of encryption keys that could be used to spy on conversations. AFP PHOTO KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - JANUARY 29: Symbolic photo for data protection, reflection of the seal of the National Security Agency in a computer hard drive on January 29, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)
Michael Rogers, director of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), speaks during an interview in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. The hacking attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment is prompting U.S. officials to rethink when the government should help private companies defend against and deter digital assaults, Rogers said. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Visitors chat near a reception desk at the Gemalto NV promotional stand on the opening day of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday, Feb. 27, 2012. The Mobile World Congress, operated by the GSMA, expects 60,000 visitors and 1400 companies to attend the four-day technology industry event which runs Feb. 27 through March 1. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An employee displays a Gemalto NV M2M quad sim card at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. The Mobile World Congress, where 1,500 exhibitors converge to discuss the future of wireless communication, is a global showcase for the mobile technology industry and runs from Feb. 25 through Feb. 28. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
GERMANY, BONN - DECEMBER 12: Symbol photo of a computer hard drive with the logo of the National Security Agency (NSA), on December 12, 2014 in Bonn, Germany. (Photo by Ulrich Baumgarten via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 20: Adm. Michael Rogers, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, testifies during a hearing before the House (Select) Intelligence Committee November 20, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on 'Cybersecurity Threats: The Way Forward.' (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) logo is displayed in the lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, on August 14, 2008. AFP PHOTO/SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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Such records, known as "metadata," reveal which numbers Americans are calling and what time they place those calls, but not the content of the conversations.

Instead analysts must now get a court order to ask telecommunications companies like Verizon Communications to enable monitoring of call records of specific people or groups for up to six months.

"The act struck a reasonable compromise which allows us to continue to protect the country while implementing various reforms," National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said.

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Some Republican lawmakers want to preserve bulk collection until 2017, citing the Nov. 13 Paris attacks in which 130 people died. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the killings.

But any new surveillance measures are unlikely to become law ahead of the November 2016 presidential elections.

A presidential review committee concluded the surveillance regime did not lead to a single clear counter terrorism breakthrough that could be directly attributed to the program.

Metadata collected by the NSA over the past five years will be preserved for "data integrity purposes" through February 29, the White House said.

After that the NSA will purge all of its historic records once pending litigation is resolved.

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