DPI16_Banner_300x250 WITH COPY
IAPP-GDPR Web Banners-300x250-FINAL
Telephone Records and PRISM—The First Job for the Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board

Front pages have picked up the report from The Guardian that the National Security Agency (NSA) is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of customers of Verizon. Many observers believe that other telecom providers may be under similar court orders.

The scope of the warrant, as reported by The Guardian, is broad: “Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.”

A second set of stories emerged a day later, reporting that the NSA and the FBI have created a “PRISM” program, through which the agencies “are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies.” PRISM reportedly extracts audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs. Several of the companies have issued denials.

Among the many issues that arise from these revelations, this post recommends that investigating these revelations should become the first priority for the newly stood-up Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB).

Just last week, after a long—and unjustified—delay in the Senate, David Medine was sworn in as the first chair of the PCLOB. He joined the four other members of the board who were confirmed in 2012. With Medine’s confirmation, the board can assume all of its statutory powers.

Under its authorizing statute, the PCLOB is designed to “analyze and review actions the executive branch takes to protect the nation from terrorism, ensuring that the need for such actions is balanced with the need to protect privacy and civil liberties.” The Verizon warrant was reportedly issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which targets “agents of foreign powers” and is widely used to address international terrorism threats, as I have discussed previously.

The PCLOB does not have to wait for a legislative or regulatory proposal to do its job. Instead, the statute says that the PCLOB “shall continually review” the design and implementation of “efforts to protect the Nation from terrorism to ensure that privacy and civil liberties are protected.” Members of the PCLOB receive security clearances.

To investigate the newly-public programs, the PCLOB can request cooperation from federal agencies, including by using its subpoena powers—subject to review by the attorney general. The PCLOB also has an obligation to report to Congress at least twice a year, made available to the public to the extent consistent with protecting classified information. This sort of report may be particularly useful in the current situation, because Senators Wyden and Udall have already voiced their concerns about the current surveillance.

In addition, the PCLOB has subject-matter expertise here. Verizon reportedly turned over the records under Section 215 of the USA-PATRIOT Act of 2001. This “business records” provision has been the subject of sharp criticism since it was enacted. Notably, PCLOB board member Jim Dempsey has testified in Congress in 2003 and 2005 warning about the FBI’s “sweeping authority” under Section 215 and supporting narrowing amendments.

Chairman Medine has been in office only a few days, and the PCLOB faces many pressing privacy issues. But the startling new reports suggest that PRISM and the telephone record warrants should be a top priority.


Written By

Peter Swire, CIPP/US


If you want to comment on this post, you need to login.

  • Anonim Oct 7, 2013

    You have to check banamo(dot)com - encrypted social communucator
  • Uzairs theory of everything Jun 1, 2014

    Great and nice blog. It's also very interesting. We also have a website about <a href="http://uzairstheoryofeverything.com/?p=137">Uzairs theory of everything</a>. 
    Please visit our website: http://uzairstheoryofeverything.com/?p=137


Board of Directors

See the esteemed group of leaders shaping the future of the IAPP.

Contact Us

Need someone to talk to? We’re here for you.

IAPP Staff

Looking for someone specific? Visit the staff directory.

Learn more about the IAPP»

Daily Dashboard

The day’s top stories from around the world

Privacy Perspectives

Where the real conversations in privacy happen

The Privacy Advisor

Original reporting and feature articles on the latest privacy developments

Privacy Tracker

Alerts and legal analysis of legislative trends

Privacy Tech

Exploring the technology of privacy

Canada Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top Canadian privacy news

Europe Data Protection Digest

A roundup of the top European data protection news

Asia-Pacific Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from the Asia-Pacific region

Latin America Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from Latin America

IAPP Westin Research Center

Original works. Groundbreaking research. Emerging scholars.

Get more News »

Find a KnowledgeNet Chapter Near You

Network and talk privacy at IAPP KnowledgeNet meetings, taking place worldwide.

Women Leading Privacy

Events, volunteer opportunities and more designed to help you give and get career support and expand your network.

IAPP Job Board

Looking for a new challenge, or need to hire your next privacy pro? The IAPP Job Board is the answer.

Join the Privacy List

Have ideas? Need advice? Subscribe to the Privacy List. It’s crowdsourcing, with an exceptional crowd.

Find more ways to Connect »

Find a Privacy Training Class

Two-day privacy training classes are held around the world. See the complete schedule now.

Online Privacy Training

Build your knowledge. The privacy know-how you need is just a click away.

The Training Post—Can’t-Miss Training Updates

Subscribe now to get the latest alerts on training opportunities around the world.

New Web Conferences Added!

See our list of upcoming web conferences. Just log on, listen in and learn!

Train Your Staff

Get your team up to speed on privacy by bringing IAPP training to your organization.

Learn more »

CIPP Certification

The global standard for the go-to person for privacy laws, regulations and frameworks

CIPM Certification

The first and only privacy certification for professionals who manage day-to-day operations

CIPT Certification

The industry benchmark for IT professionals worldwide to validate their knowledge of privacy requirements

Certify Your Staff

Find out how you can bring the world’s only globally recognized privacy certification to a group in your organization.

Learn more about IAPP certification »

Get Close-up

Looking for tools and info on a hot topic? Our close-up pages organize it for you in one easy-to-find place.

Where's Your DPA?

Our interactive DPA locator helps you find data protection authorities and summary of law by country.

IAPP Westin Research Center

See the latest original research from the IAPP Westin fellows.

Looking for Certification Study Resources?

Find out what you need to prepare for your exams

More Resources »

GDPR Comprehensive: Spots Going Fast

With the top minds in the field leading this exceptional program, it's no wonder it's filling quickly. Register now to secure your spot.

Be Part of Something Big: Join the Summit

Registration is open for the Global Privacy Summit 2016. Discounted early bird rates available for a short time, register today!

Data Protection Intensive Returns to London

Registration is now open for the IAPP Europe Data Protection Intensive in London. Check out the program!

P.S.R. Call for Speakers Open!

P.S.R. is THE privacy + cloud security event of the year, and you can take a leading role. Propose a session for this year's program.

Sponsor an Event

Increase visibility for your organization—check out sponsorship opportunities today.

Exhibit at an Event

Put your brand in front of the largest gatherings of privacy pros in the world. Learn more.

More Conferences »

Become a Member

Start taking advantage of the many IAPP member benefits today

Corporate Members

See our list of high-profile corporate members—and find out why you should become one, too

Renew Your Membership

Don’t miss out for a minute—continue accessing your benefits

Join the IAPP»