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NSA called out for purchasing data from illegal data brokers

NSA called out for purchasing data from illegal data brokers

The US National Security Agency (NSA) has been called out for the unconsenting purchase of American data through illegal data brokers.

The NSA’s actions were discovered and made apparent by US Senator Ron Wyden in a letter addressed to the US director of national intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines.

The letter, which was later released, requested that the NSA halt its illegal data collection.

“I write to request that you take action to ensure that US intelligence agencies only purchase data on Americans that has been obtained in a lawful manner,” wrote Wyden in the opening of his letter.

Additionally, Wyden took to social media late last week, stating that the NSA had confirmed that it had been purchasing data illegally.

“The NSA has confirmed to my office in an unclassified letter that the agency is purchasing Americans’ internet browsing data without a warrant,” said Wyden on X (formerly Twitter).

“I’m calling on DNI Haines to stop intelligence agencies from buying up Americans’ private data being sold illegally by data brokers.”

The request comes following the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruling earlier this month that data brokers are required to obtain the informed consent of Americans before selling collected data.

It also banned brokers who collect smartphone-location data, specifically Outlogic, from selling it, saying that doing so violated the consumer’s right to privacy.

This decision is what pushed Wyden to call out the NSA. Wyden discovered in 2020 that Outlogic (formerly X-Mode Social) was selling its collected location data directly to the US military.

“The US government should not be funding and legitimising a shady industry whose flagrant violations of Americans’ privacy are not just unethical, but illegal,” Wyden’s letter continued.

“To that end, I request that you adopt a policy that, going forward, IC elements may only purchase data about Americans that meets the standard for legal data sales established by the FTC.”

Wyden added that US intelligence agencies should establish an inventory of the data they have collected on the American people and then review whether or not it, or the collection of it, adheres to the new FTC regulations and standards.

Responding to Wyden’s callout, the NSA said that the data it purchases under these circumstances is used in the best interests of US national security and is not used lightly.

“At all stages, NSA takes steps to minimise the collection of US person information, to include application of technical filters,” an NSA spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters.

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