US government seeks to hold phone data beyond five-year limit

The government says it needs to hold the data because of various lawsuits challenging its collection

The U.S. government has asked a secret surveillance court to allow it to hold telephone metadata for a period beyond the current five-year limit, for use as potential evidence in civil lawsuits regarding the collection of the data.

In June last year, former National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden, revealed that the agency was collecting bulk phone records of Verizon customers in the U.S.

The government subsequently confirmed that it had a program for the bulk collection of phone metadata, which triggered a number of privacy law suits in various courts challenging the legality of the NSA program under section 215 of the Patriot Act.

When litigation is pending against a party, or is reasonably anticipated, the party has a duty to preserve relevant information that may be evidence in the case, the Department of Justice stated in a filing Tuesday before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that was made public Wednesday.

"A party may be exposed to a range of sanctions not only for violating a preservation order, but also for failing to produce relevant evidence when ordered to do so because it destroyed information that it had a duty to preserve," it wrote, while pointing out that it hasn't received a specific preservation order so far in any of the civil lawsuits.

The American Civil Liberties Union, U.S. Senator Rand Paul and the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles are among those who have filed lawsuits challenging the phone records program.

The telephony metadata retained beyond five years for the purpose of the civil litigation will be kept in a format that prevents access or use of it by NSA staff for any purpose including queries for gathering foreign intelligence information, according to the filing.

The U.S. government is, meanwhile, exploring alternatives to the NSA holding the phone data. It has asked industry for information on whether commercially available services can provide a viable alternative to the government holding the bulk data.

In a review of NSA surveillance last month, President Barack Obama called for a new approach on telephony metadata that will "establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata."

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags U.S. Department of JusticeregulationsecurityU.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance CourtlegalU.S. National Security Agencygovernmentprivacy

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?