There is an excellent FAQ regarding the NSA data collection controversy. It provides a great overview of exactly what the NSA has been doing, lo, these many years. Among the many questions answered are:
1) What information does the NSA collect and how?
2) Does the NSA record everything about everyone, all the time?
3) Does the NSA need an individualized warrant to listen to my calls or look at my emails?
Perhaps the most chilling aspect of this data collection nightmare is a quote from a former Stasi (Communist East Germany's secret police) Lieutenant Colonel Wolfgang Schmidt:
You know, for us, this would have been a dream come true...So much information, on so many people...
Not surprisingly, according to the McClatchy article, "Germans are dismayed at Obama’s role in allowing the collection of so much information."
A wonderful film depicting the horror of data collection by the Stasi and its effects on the people involved is the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 2007 Best Foreign Film, "The Lives of Others." It's well worth your time to see it.