Nerval's Lobster writes: The decision of a New York judge that the wholesale collection of cell-phone metadata by the National Security Agency is constitutional ties the score between pro- and anti-NSA forces at one victory apiece. The contradictory decisions use similar reasoning and criteria to come to opposite conclusions, leaving both individuals and corporations uncertain of whether their phone calls, online activity or even data stored in the cloud will ultimately be shielded by U.S. laws protecting property, privacy or search and seizure by law-enforcement agencies. On Dec. 27, Judge William H. Pauley threw out a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that sought to stop the NSA PRISM cell-phone metadata-collection program on the grounds it violated Fourth Amendment provisions protecting individual privacy and limits on search and seizure of personal property by the federal government. Pauley threw out the lawsuit largely due to his conclusion that Fourth Amendment protections do not apply to records held by third parties. That eliminates the criteria for most legal challenges, but throws into question the privacy of any data held by phone companies, cloud providers or external hosting companies – all of which could qualify as unprotected third parties.