WASHINGTON DC — Your digital footprint can be bought and sold by data brokers and there are now concerns that the federal government is accessing your personal data as well.
“Investigative journalists have discovered that federal agencies secretly pay data brokers to gain access to vast amounts of personal data of Americans, including the location of cellphones,” said Elizabeth Goitein, senior director of the program. Freedom and National Security at the Brennan Center for Justice.
Goitein said some federal agencies are finding loopholes around a 2018 Supreme Court ruling that requires law enforcement officials to obtain a warrant to access your cellphone location history.
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“The court held that such information can reveal the most intimate details of a person’s life, associations, habits, even beliefs,” Goitein said. “Also, there’s really nothing voluntary about sharing this information because cell phones aren’t optional in modern society.”
Documents recently released by the ACLU show that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as the US Department of Homeland Security, secretly purchased location data.
Going forward, some advocates are urging Congress to pass the Fourth Amendment is Not For Sale Act, which would bar government agencies from accessing personal data without a court order.
“American law enforcement and intelligence agencies will always have powerful legal tools at their fingertips to pursue leads that may catch terrorists, spies and dangerous criminals. They’ll just have to follow the rules,” said Bob Goodlatte, senior policy adviser at the Project for Privacy & Surveillance Accountability.
Republican Congressman Jim Jordan echoes the need to crack down on this issue.
“This must include us looking at the government’s access to commercially available bulk data and its use of tools like PEGUS that allow them to spy on encrypted mobile devices,” Jordan said. “It should also prompt us to consider restrictions on the government’s use of facial recognition technology in the United States to target citizens.”
We contacted ICE and the Department of Homeland Security and an ICE spokesperson said the agency was working on this request. We haven’t heard back from DHS.
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