Privacy Board Says NSA Program Legal, Effective, Problematic

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board says the NSA's data-collection program is legal and effective, but needs more privacy protection.

Privacy Board Says NSA Program Legal, Effective, Problematic
Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board

Remember that time the NSA's data-collection practices got us in trouble with Germany?

You know, when Angela Merkel was less-than-pleased with the U.S. for spying on her and several other foreign leaders. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Dirk Vorderstraße)

Now the board tasked with reviewing such practices has come back with a verdict, saying that NSA surveillance program is legal and effective.

‚Äč"The independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board says the spy agency's program targeting people overseas isn't just legal, but that it also works." (Via CNN)

The report involves the investigation of the NSA's practice of collecting electronic communications under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. (Via Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board)

While the board did conclude the agency's practice of collecting data on foreign intelligence targets was legal and successful, it also found some practices "push the program close to the line of constitutional reasonableness."

"Certain aspects of the program's implementation raise privacy concerns. These include the scope of the incidental collection of U.S. persons' communications and the use of queries to search the information collected under the program for the communications of specific U.S. persons." (Via Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board)

A writer for The Hill points out the report is quite different from the PCLOB's ruling on the NSA's bulk data collection program, in which the board ruled the practice illegal. 

Many sources consider the board's conclusion a win for the NSA. 

Forbes' headline says the PCLOB went easy on the NSA, and calls the board's findings "a big victory" for the agency. 

Tech-blog Re/code says the report will hurt U.S. tech companies, because many claim the NSA's data collection practices "made it more difficult to do business overseas with distrustful governments and companies."

And Bloomberg spoke with an analyst who supports this conclusion. "U.S. technology companies could lose as much as $35 billion in the next three years in response to foreign customers not buying their products."

The board has offered up ten recommendations to ensure "the program remains tied to its constitutionally legitimate core," including specific criteria to "determine the ... value of a particular target," and insure domestic data isn't collected by updating data filtration technology. (Via Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board)

The PCLOB report will be officially released and voted on at a public meeting on Thursday.