When the USA Freedom Act passed earlier this summer, the NSA was pushed to stop collecting phone records in bulk. The question of what would happen to the massive amount of data it’d already collected on people remained. That question was answered today: Those old troves of metadata are mostly going in the garbage.
The NSA will purge some of the metadata it illegally collected from people under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. November 29, 2015 will be the last day employees will have access to the information to analyze it. Technical employees will have access until next February.
Not everything will be scrubbed, however. The NSA isn’t deleting some of the metadata it collected that is now involved in civil litigations, though it pinkie-promises to delete it eventually:
The telephony metadata preserved solely because of preservation obligations in pending civil litigation will not be used or accessed for any other purpose, and, as soon as possible, NSA will destroy the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata upon expiration of its litigation preservation obligations.
This is like someone squatting in your home for years, throwing parties and vomiting on every available surface, and then later offering to take out the trash only after they were court-ordered to vacate. Better than not taking out the trash (I guess?) but a hollow gesture that completely fails to mitigate the negative effects of the original wrongdoing.
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