Obama's legacy on the line with new NSA reforms

Leslie Harris, president of the nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology, said that the issue is the single most important for privacy advocates.

“Unless they deal with the big overarching question of bulk collection in both programs, fixing a lot of meaningful but small problems is not going to be enough,” she told The Hill on Friday.

Outside groups have suggested the NSA end its bulk collection while requiring phone companies or a third party to store the data. Sources say Obama is likely to endorse this idea, which would allow the government to look at data with court approval.

Privacy and civil liberties groups say that wouldn’t solve the problem.

“They’ve got to end it and they can’t simply move the data into the phone companies or a third party,” Harris said. “It creates a whole new set of risks.”

Telecommunications companies complain that requiring them to hold on to the metadata would erode the public’s trust in them.