The NSA is deleting all of its call records since 2015 because of privacy issues

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The NSA -- not exactly a bastion of privacy -- has announced that it is deleting hundreds of millions of call and text records because of "technical irregularities".

The agency says that back in May this year is started to delete all of the calls records it collected since 2015. While full details of the reasons for the deletion are not given, the NSA notes that it collected data it was not authorized to collect.

It is not clear how far through the process of deleting all of the unauthoratized records the NSA is, or how long it will take to complete, but it says that it is going public with the news out of respect for "the law, accountability, integrity, and transparency". The agency also does not go into any details about the "technical irregularities" that were detected beyond pointing out that data collection overreached its legal limitations.

A posting on the NSA website reads:

Consistent with NSA's core values of respect for the law, accountability, integrity, and transparency we are making public notice that on May 23, 2018, NSA began deleting all call detail records (CDRs) acquired since 2015 under Title V of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)

The Government relies on Title V of FISA to obtain CDRs, which do not include the content of any calls. In accordance with this law, the Government obtains these CDRs, following a specific court-authorized process.

NSA is deleting the CDRs because several months ago NSA analysts noted technical irregularities in some data received from telecommunications service providers. These irregularities also resulted in the production to NSA of some CDRs that NSA was not authorized to receive. Because it was infeasible to identify and isolate properly produced data, NSA concluded that it should not use any of the CDRs. Consequently, NSA, in consultation with the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, decided that the appropriate course of action was to delete all CDRs. NSA notified the Congressional Oversight Committees, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, and the Department of Justice of this decision. The Department of Justice, in turn, notified the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The root cause of the problem has since been addressed for future CDR acquisitions, and NSA has reviewed and revalidated its intelligence reporting to ensure that the reports were based on properly received CDRs.

While the agency notes that the cause of the problem has been identified and addressed, the mass deletion is typical of the NSA's all-or-nothing approach to data collection. This is not the first time data has been deleted in this way, and the purging of records makes it impossible for any sort of external investigation into wrongdoing to take place.

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