Not just unethical but illegal – NSA admits to spying on Americans


US Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) disclosed on Thursday that the National Security Agency (NSA) has acknowledged purchasing records from data brokers that list the websites and apps that Americans use.

According to Wyden, there is a possibility that the intelligence community is assisting data brokers in disobeying a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruling that mandates “clear and conspicuous” disclosures to Americans and their informed consent before their data is sold to other parties. Since he began looking into data brokers seven years ago, Wyden claimed not to have been “aware of any company that provides such a warning to users before collecting their data.” The FTC’s order came after settling with a data broker, X-Mode, who admitted to selling sensitive location data without user consent and even to selling data after users revoked consent.

The FTC declined to comment regarding whether the directive also covers data purchases made by intelligence services. The FTC directive appears to define “location data” in a way that leaves room for any information gathered outside of the US and utilized for “security purposes” or “national security purposes carried out by federal agencies or other federal entities.”

NSA claims they only acquire mission-critical data

NSA representatives informed Senator Wyden that the intelligence service was also buying Internet metadata belonging to Americans in addition to data on Americans living in the US. However, General Paul Nakasone told Wyden that they “only acquire the most useful data relevant to mission requirements.”

Wyden wants the intelligence communities to inventory the data they purportedly unlawfully collected on Americans without a warrant, then “promptly” erase it to address the issue. According to Wyden, this procedure has “in effect” permitted the FBI and the NSA to use “their credit card to circumvent the Fourth Amendment.”

The dubious practice of selling data without Americans’ informed consent is something Wyden refers to as “industry-wide” and feels it should be regulated, even though the FTC has previously taken action against a few data brokers. According to Wyden, intelligence agencies ought to cease sponsoring businesses that are reportedly engaged in “intrusive” and “unchecked” surveillance of Americans rather than continuing to be a client in this dubious industry.

Featured Image Credit: Faisal Rahman; Pexels

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.

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