Rachel Levinson-Waldman points out what a recent white paper about telephone metadata collection released by the White House does not reveal or clarify:
First, what else is the government gathering in bulk? The paper asserts that phone metadata are collected because the NSA can analyze them to tease out previously unknown associations, but that other types of personal information — medical and library records — are not collected in bulk because those broad-scale analytical tools do not apply. One category is conspicuously omitted: credit card records, which the Wall Street Journal has reported the NSA is gathering as well.
While the government has cryptically denied these reports, the refutation may cover only the NSA — whose mandate is limited to analyzing communications information — and not other agencies. Section 215 of the Patriot Act does permit requests for credit card records, and the IRS has reportedly been applying “big data” analytical methods to bulk credit card databases.
Read more on National Law Journal.