In his final few days in office, President Barack Obama has overseen a measure that dramatically expands the power of the National Security Agency (NSA) to share intercepted data with other intelligence agencies.

The new rules put into place by President Obama permit the sharing of data the NSA gathers on private citizens with a number of other intelligence and law enforcement agencies, all before applying the legally required privacy protections or obtaining a warrant. In order to be intercepted legally, communications such as phone calls and emails must cross network switches abroad, so any digital interactions you have with people outside of the United States, or even domestic communications that travel across international switches, are already susceptible to legal NSA surveillance, but now the data gathered can be shared more freely within the law enforcement community.

The intent behind these new measures is to provide a larger base of law enforcement and intelligence officials that can sift through the tremendous amounts of data collected by the NSA, thus reducing the chances that a threat is overlooked by existing NSA methodology. Privacy concerns raised by critics point out that this also dramatically increases the likelihood that government officials will be sifting through the personal communications of innocent Americans.

“Rather than dramatically expanding government access to so much personal data, we need much stronger rules to protect the privacy of Americans,” said Patrick Toomey, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Seventeen different government agencies shouldn’t be rooting through Americans’ emails with family members, friends, and colleagues, all without ever obtaining a warrant.”

He went on to add that domestic internet data is often routed through external stations or stored abroad, which means many Americans who have had no communications outside the borders of the United States are still having their private data collected by the federal government.

Agencies will need to request access to specific data and surveillance feeds from the NSA by making a case that the feeds contain useful or relevant information for ongoing investigations. The NSA will then grant access to requests they deem reasonable. The NSA has stated that it will assess these requests based on considerations such as whether large amounts of Americans’ private information will be exposed to other agencies’ officials in the effort, as well as how embarrassing that data could be to said Americans if it were “improperly used or disclosed.”

Despite concerns about privacy violations, some see this move as a dramatic improvement over the bureaucratic barriers that have hindered intelligence and law enforcement agencies operating within the United States in the past.

“This is not expanding the substantive ability of law enforcement to get access to signals intelligence,” said Robert S. Litt, the general counsel to the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr. “It is simply widening the aperture for a larger number of analysts, who will be bound by the existing rules.”