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


US Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) has admitted to buying records from data brokers containing information about the websites and apps used by Americans.

Wyden raised concerns that the intelligence community might be assisting data brokers in violating a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruling that requires clear disclosures and consent from Americans before their data is sold to third parties. He noted that in his seven-year investigation of data brokers, no company had provided users with a warning before collecting their data. The FTC’s action was a result of a settlement with X-Mode, a data broker that confessed to selling location data without user consent and even after consent was revoked.

The FTC did not comment on whether the directive covers data purchases by intelligence agencies. The directive’s definition of “location data” appears broad, potentially allowing the gathering of information outside the US for “security” or “national security” purposes by federal agencies.

NSA Claims to Acquire Essential Data Only

NSA representatives informed Wyden that the agency was buying Internet metadata of Americans and US residents, but General Paul Nakasone assured that they only acquire data essential to their missions.

Wyden urged intelligence agencies to disclose and delete unlawfully collected data on Americans to rectify the situation. He criticized the practice, stating that it allows the FBI and NSA to bypass the Fourth Amendment. Wyden called for regulations on the industry-wide practice of selling data without consent.

Wyden emphasized that intelligence agencies should stop supporting businesses involved in intrusive surveillance of Americans rather than being clients in this controversial industry.

Featured Image Credit: Faisal Rahman; Pexels

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