Wyden releases documents confirming NSA buying Americans’ Internet browsing records


Washington DC U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., released documents confirming that the National Security Agency buys Americans’ Internet records, which can reveal what websites they visit and what apps they use. In response to the revelation, Wyden today called on the administration to ensure that intelligence agencies stop purchasing illegally obtained personal data of Americans from data brokers. A recent FTC order states that data brokers must obtain informed consent from Americans before selling their data.

“The United States government should not be funding and legitimizing a shady industry whose flagrant violations of Americans’ privacy are not only immoral, but illegal,” Wyden wrote in a letter to Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines today . “To that end, I ask that we adopt a policy that, in the future, IC elements will only be able to purchase data on Americans who meet the standard for lawful data sales established by the FTC.”

Wyden has fought for nearly three years to make public the fact that the NSA is buying Americans’ Internet data. He managed to get public confirmation of this fact after blocking the nomination of Lieutenant General Timothy Haugh to serve as director of the NSA. Web browsing records may reveal sensitive and sensitive information about a person based on where they visit the Internet, including visiting websites related to mental health resources, resources for survivors of sexual assault or domestic abuse, or visiting a provider of telemedicine specializing in birth control or abortive drugs.

Wyden, a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, revealed how multiple federal government agencies purchased and searched Americans’ private documents – including location data, Internet records and more – without a warrant – effectively using their security card. credit to circumvent the Fourth Amendment. In 2021, for example, Wyden revealed the Defense Intelligence Agency purchased and used location data collected from American phones.

“Until recently, the data broker industry and the intelligence community’s purchase of data from these shady companies existed in a legal gray area, largely due to the secrecy surrounding the practice,” Wyden wrote. “App developers and advertising companies did not meaningfully disclose to users their sale and sharing of personal data with data brokers or attempt to obtain informed consent.”

Wyden urged the DNI to order U.S. intelligence agencies to stop purchasing Americans’ private data obtained illegally in violation of new rules outlined by the the Federal Trade Commission this month. Through this case, the FTC announced that Americans must be informed and agree to have their data sold to “government contractors for national security purposes” for the practice to be permitted. Wyden, who spent seven years investigating the data broker industry, isn’t aware of any company that provides such notice to users before collecting their data.

Wyden also asked the DNI to order elements of intelligence agencies to take three actions to ensure they comply with the FTC’s latest rulings:

  • Conduct an inventory of personal data purchased by the agency on Americans, including, but not limited to, location and Internet metadata. Cataloging the IC’s acquisition of commercially available information was also a recommendation of the Office of the DNI’s Senior Advisory Group on Commercially Available Information in its January 2022 report.

  • Determine whether each data source identified in this inventory meets the standards for the legal sale of personal data outlined by the FTC. This is also consistent with the Senior Advisory Group’s recommendation to “identify and protect sensitive data [Commercially Available Information] this involves concerns about privacy and civil liberties.”

  • Where such data purchases do not meet the FTC’s legal standards for the sale of personal data, promptly delete the data. If IC elements have a specific need to retain data, that need and a description of any retained data will be communicated to Congress and, to the greatest extent possible, to the American public.

The text of the letter and documents provided by the NSA and the Department of Defense are Here.

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