The National Security Agency has been widely criticized for its ongoing collection of data from United States citizens.  However this past week, the court in charge of the covert activities of the NSA pushed back on a request by the Department of Justice to extend how long it could store private information. The moved potentially marks changing attitudes towards what is acceptable in the face of national security.

As it stands, the information that the Agency collects can only be stored for five years, but several pending lawsuits fall outside that scope of time and would require the additional preservation of information prompting the request. Presiding Judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Reggie Walton said in a decision issued on Mar. 7 that the NSA was still a source of privacy issues for the public, and therefore would be denied the ability to store unused information for any longer.

“The amended procedures would further infringe on the privacy interests of United States persons whose telephone records were acquired in vast numbers and retained by the government to aid in national security investigations,” Walton said in his order.

Walton continued, saying, “The great majority of these individuals have never been the subject of investigations by the FBI to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities. The government seeks to retain these records, not for national security reasons, but because some of them may be relevant in civil litigation in which the destruction of those very same records is being requested. However, the civil plaintiffs potentially interested in preserving the (telecom) metadata have expressed no desire to acquire the records.”

While the denial of this request would stop the Department of Justice from holding onto data indefinitely, information that either currently being used in an investigation or flagged in anyway would not be subject to the restrictions.


For more developments on data security and privacy check out these stories:

Apple data breach compromises users of iOS and OS X

Technology companies form coalition to counter NSA data collection

State lawmakers trying to rein in feds