"Nightmare Scenario": US Government Has Been Secretly Stockpiling Dirt On Americans Via Data Brokers

The government is tracking the phones of millions of Americans without a warrant.

According to reports, the US Government is buying troves upon troves of data on American citizens directly from third-party data providers.

Wired

This article cites privacy activists who claim that this is a "nightmare situation."

The United States

The government secretly collects a "large amount" of "sensitive and intimate data" on its citizens

Avril Haines, director of national intelligence was informed by a group senior advisers more than a full year ago.

The government's efforts to collect data on Americans are vast and detailed.

The director's panel of experts has described the film in detail and with a lot of realism

In a recently declassified document. Haines first asked her advisers to unravel a web between secretive business agreements between commercial data brokers, and US intelligence community. -Wired

According to Sean Vitka, an attorney with the nonprofit Demand Progress, "this report confirms what we were most afraid of." "Intelligence agents are breaking the law by buying information on Americans that Congress, the Supreme Court and the Constitution have said the government shouldn't have."

The government has been using

"Craven interpretations of ageing laws"

As prosecutors ignore the limits that have traditionally been imposed on domestic spying, they are increasingly ignoring privacy rights.

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I've warned for years

According to Senator Ron Wyden (DOR), if the Fourth Amendment is violated by using a credit cards to purchase an American's private information, traditional checks and balanced for government surveillance will collapse.

Wyden demanded that Haines release the report of the panel during a hearing on March 8, after Haines had said the public should "absolutely read" it. This is exactly what happened on Friday after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the report amid a dispute with the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Chris Baumohl, EPIC law fellow said: "This report shows that the government still believes it can buy out of constitutional protections by using taxpayers money." "Congress needs to address the government's data brokers pipeline before it considers reauthorizing Section 702 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act," said Chris Baumohl (referring the ongoing political battle over the so-called "data broker pipeline").

Crown jewel

US surveillance is per

Wired

).

The ODNI panel of advisors has made it clear that

The government's rigid interpretation of what is 'publicly accessible information' poses an important threat to the public.

The advisors criticize existing policies which automatically conflate being able buy information and it being deemed 'public'.

Information that is being sold commercially about Americans is "more revealing" than what is typically thought to be 'publicly accessible'. It is also more readily available (in large quantities), harder to avoid and less understood.

The report's most controversial statement is that

The government believes that it can track 'persistently,' the phones of "millions" of Americans without a warrant

If the government pays for information, it is considered a Fourth Amendment'search' and would require a judge to sign off. If the government simply demanded access to a device’s location, it would be a Fourth Amendment ‘search’ and require a court to sign off. Because companies are willingly selling the information, not only to the US Government but also to other companies, the government believes that the data is 'publicly accessible' and can therefore purchase it. -Wired

The report also notes that anonymized data can be used to identify people, even if it was anonymized before its commercial sale. The report states that the data could be used to "identify everyone who attended a rally or protest based on their smartphone's location or tracking records." This raises serious civil liberties concerns because "large amounts of nominally "public" information can lead to sensitive aggregates.

The report continues to state that

In the past, sensitive information about an individual was only available as part of "targeted and predicated" investigations

This is no longer true.

The report states that "commercially available data" includes information about nearly everyone, but that "few Americans understand this, and even less can avoid it." It also notes that the "volume" and "sensitivity" of data available to the government for purchase have increased in recent years, thanks to the "location-tracking" and other features on smartphones, as well as to the "advertising based monetization" model that is the foundation of much of the Internet.

According to the ODNI this data, "in the hands of the wrong people", could be used by Americans against them "to facilitate blackmail, stalking and harassment" - crimes that intelligence agencies and White House have committed in the past.

The government would not have allowed billions of citizens to be forced to wear location tracking devices at all times or to record and track their social interactions. Or to keep perfect records of their reading habits. The report states that smartphones, connected vehicles, web tracking technology, the Internet of Things and other innovations had the same effect without the government's involvement.