The protective order forcing the government to hang on to at least some of the data is connected to court cases over the legality of the phone program filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

One of the government's arguments in those cases is that such groups need to prove that their plaintiff's data was actually collected as part of the programs to sue over it. That puts privacy advocates in the awkward position of having to make sure that the government doesn't erase data it wishes it had never collected at all because it's evidence needed to keep their court challenges alive.

"We want them to delete it, but not until they confirm that our data was collected," explained Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney at EFF.

Monday, November 30, 2015
The Washington Post

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