NSA will delete phone records on 29th November, sort of

Can an elephant forget? That might be the metaphorical question on people's minds after hearing about the NSA's move to restrict its access to phone records accumulated under the USA Patriot Act. On face value, it seems like a win for privacy and all that, but, as with all legal cases, there are always fineprints to be meticulously observed. In other words, the phone database won't exactly disappear immediately, but will hang around for a while, giving interested people some time to do what they can to squeeze out what they can.

The USA Freedom Act, which was passed last June, made it illegal to bulk collect phone metadata. The NSA was given a grace period of six months to transition its programs to the new law. That said, by the time the grace period expires on November 29, there will still be a good amount of records left. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement clarifying what will happen to that database from that day forward.

Technically, the NSA will cease to have access to that database starting the 29th of November. In reality, however, a number of "technical personnel" will be able to access the database "solely for data integrity purposes", just to the records produced from that comply with the Freedom Act's requirements. The implicit promise is that the data won't be used for other, investigative purposes.

But then even after that three month extension, the database will still remain intact. Almost ironically, it's because the NSA is obligated to preserver those records while it is undergoing litigation for the very same activity that produced that database. The NSA was sued by the likes of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a federal appeals court ruled that the phone metadata collection was illegal.

In a nutshell, the NSA formally cedes its access to the phone metadata database on November 29 but the database will remain in existence long after that due to surrounding circumstances. We can only trust that the NSA will not use that period to secretly access the records for the usual sake of nation security.

VIA: The Verge