Friday, May 08, 2015

A blow for privacy

A US federal appeals court has struck a blow for privacy, ruling that the NSA's domestic metadata surveillance is illegal:

A federal appeals court panel ruled on Thursday that the NSA’s bulk collection of metadata of phone calls to and from Americans is not authorized by Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, throwing out the government’s legal justification for the surveillance program exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden nearly two years ago.

Judge Gerard E. Lynch, writing the opinion for the unanimous three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, described as “unprecedented and unwarranted” the government’s argument that the all-encompassing collection of phone records was allowed because it was “relevant” to an authorized investigation.

Along the way they also ruled that, contrary to the NSA's internal definition, computer searching of someone's data is surveillance. Which probably affects the legality of other NSA spying too.

Meanwhile, there are obvious questions: what happens to the data from this illegal surveillance programme? Will it be destroyed? (And could we ever believe the NSA if they said it had been?) What about anyone convicted in part using illegally-obtained data? Will their conviction be overturned as the poison fruit of a poison tree?