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The US Is Buying And Storing Data On Citizens

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The US government has been clandestinely gathering a “large amount” of “sensitive and intimate information” on American citizens, according to a report that has just been declassified. The report, which was handed to Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, by her own senior advisers, offers a disconcerting glimpse into the government’s data hoarding activities.

What They’re Saying: “This report reveals what we feared most. Intelligence agencies are flouting the law and buying information about Americans that Congress and the Supreme Court have made clear the government should not have,” Sean Vitka, a policy attorney at Demand Progress, told Wired.

Between the Lines: The government has been exploiting legal loopholes and leveraging archaic laws to create a ballooning surveillance behemoth. By purchasing data from commercial brokers, the government claims it can “persistently” track the phones of “millions of Americans” without a warrant. This side steps Fourth Amendment protections, which would normally require a warrant for such surveillance.

The Mission Creep: Even more unnerving is the revelation that data initially gathered for harmless reasons could be redirected for more nefarious objectives.

The Lawmaker’s Take: Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon expressed grave concerns: “If using a credit card to buy an American’s personal information voids their Fourth Amendment rights, then traditional checks and balances for government surveillance will crumble.”

The Critics’ Call: Critics are clamoring for an overhaul of what is deemed “publicly available information.” The report’s advisers are critical of the status quo, pointing out that commercially sold data today is “more revealing, available on more people, less possible to avoid, and less well understood” compared to conventional public information.

Misuse Risks: The report signals alarm over the potential malevolent use of the amassed data for blackmail, stalking, and public shaming. Chris Baumohl, a law fellow at EPIC, stated, “This report makes it clear that the government continues to think it can buy its way out of constitutional protections using taxpayers’ own money.”

The Technological Chasm: As technology races ahead, the gulf between surveillance capabilities and legal safekeeping is expanding. The report’s advisers press for the government to recognize and address this disparity in safeguarding citizens’ privacy rights.

Silence from ODNI: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence hasn’t made any comments on the report. Attempts to reach the members of the senior advisory panel were futile as their names have been redacted.

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