The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court) has granted the U.S. government authority to continue collecting bulk metadata from consumers' phone records for selective inspection by the National Security Agency.
The federal givernment's current authority to collect such data now expires on June 1.
Back in December the White House received a 90-day reauthorization of the NSA's telephone metadata collection program. In the wake of the Eric Snowden leaks about the program, President Obama made some changes to how the data could be used, but said that to no longer collect the data in bulk would require a change in the law, which hasn't happened yet.
The White House had sought and received that reauthorization Dec. 4. That expired Feb. 27, which necessitated the Feb. 26 request for another reauthorization.
The administration has chosen to make a redacted copy of the court's order public.
The metadata that can be collected does not include the "substantive content" of a communication or the name, address or financial information of a customer or the cell site location information.
The government's inspection of that data is subject to numerous restrictions: The data collected from telecoms must be stored on secure networks under NSA's control, only trained personnel can access it, only approved search terms will be used to query the database and any selective query can only extend two steps beyond the original information.
Bulk data collection has been in the crosshairs of various groups concerned about the government accessing that data. recognizing that, the court asked the government to inform it if there is a decision in any of three court cases challenging bulk collection, which includes one case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.