US court disallows NSA from holding phone records beyond five years

The government had said the data may be required as evidence for privacy civil suits filed by various groups

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has ruled against a U.S. government request that it be allowed to hold telephone metadata beyond the current five-year limit as it may be required as evidence in civil lawsuits that question the data collection.

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

The FISC's Presiding Judge Reggie B. Walton ruled Friday that the proposed amended procedures would further infringe on the privacy interests of U.S. persons whose "telephone records were acquired in vast numbers and retained by the government for five years to aid in national security investigation."

"The great majority of these individuals have never been the subject of investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities," he added.

The government which has confirmed that it has a program for the bulk collection of phone metadata, had argued in a filing last month by the Department of Justice that when litigation is pending against a party, or is reasonably expected, the party has a duty to preserve relevant information that may be evidence in the case.

The Judge pointed out that there had not been a request from the plaintiffs in the civil suits that the data be preserved beyond the five-year limit, despite it being on public record that the metadata is routinely destroyed after that period. To date, no District Court or Circuit Court of Appeals has entered a preservation order relating to the phone metadata in connection with any of the civil suits cited by the government in its motion, he added.

The government can be sanctioned for destruction of evidence only if it is established that it had an obligation to preserve it at the time it was destroyed, that the records were destroyed "with a culpable state of mind," and the destroyed evidence was relevant to the party's claim or defense, the Judge wrote.

The government's motion has been denied "without prejudice," which gives it the option to file another motion on the issue in the light of additional facts or legal analysis.

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 newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags governmentprivacyregulationlegalU.S. National Security AgencyU.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

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

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2019

This Holiday Season, protect yourself and your loved ones with the best. Buy now for Holiday Savings!

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?