If this is NSA reform, it's pretty pitiful. The Obama administration will announce new rules today that will force the intelligence agency to delete data about Americans that was "incidentally" collected — basically, accidentally scooped up in an overly broad search query. As of now, the US government collects and stores all that personal data, which does absolutely nothing to help protect national security. Now the NSA will be legally required to wipe it.
That's it. The intelligence agency and friends will still engage in bulk collection of data from American citizens and still listen in on some foreign leaders. But the they theoretically won't be saving a lot of random information about random Americans they randomly stole while casting their drag net across all corners of the telecommunication universe.
This is still good news, of course. Intelligence agencies will also delete similar incidental data about foreigners after five years. But they're still going to collect all of that data in bulk. Heck, the NSA collects so much data, its new data centre in Utah — pictured above — won't stop melting down.
There's a chance more reform could come later this year, possibly with the help of the new Republican Congress. As The New York Times points out in its coverage, though, recent terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere might make lawmakers wary of less aggressive intelligence practices. The government's authority to collect metadata expires on June 1st, so that's a date to pay attention to. In the meantime, it's just little victories for the privacy advocates. Very small, little victories. [NYT]