The government can’t seize your data — but it can buy it


When the Biden administration proposed new safeguards earlier this month To prevent law enforcement from soliciting companies for reproductive health information, they have taken a critical first step in protecting our personal information. However, there is another, serious privacy gap that Congress needs to fill.

While the constitution prohibits the government from coercing companies into handing over your sensitive information without due process, there are no laws or regulations preventing them from simply buying it.

And the US government was Buying private data for years.

Despite Supreme Court judgments Because the government cannot obtain sensitive personal information like your location without permission, shady data brokers can and do sell this information directly to the government. They exploit a loophole in our constitutional protections against surveillance: since this data is sold on the open market, the government does not have to force anyone to provide this data. You can easily purchase it without any supervision or legal consequences.

Congress must ban the government from outright buying up sensitive geolocation data — not just prevent it from being confiscated. As long as government agencies and law enforcement can legally acquire this sensitive information from data brokers, constitutional restrictions on the government’s ability to seize this data mean next to nothing.

The FBI, the military, and several other government and regulatory agencies are Regular customers of these data brokers both at home and abroad. The data they acquire gives them worrying opportunities to collect sensitive information from large groups of people.

The biggest victims of state surveillance are often marginalized communities. For example the military have acquired sensitive geolocation data collected from a muslim prayer app and a muslim dating app to track users. The broker who sold the user’s geolocation data, Locatewidespread” by the military, intelligence agencies and various levels of law enforcement. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has also drawn criticism Buying User Data to track migrants and skirt protection laws.

Even the National Guard exploits the surveillance gap and buys data about it target and recruit high school students. And the The FBI buys geolocation data to locate millions of phones – all without the need for a search warrant.

We’ve already seen the potentially harmful consequences of using private data and tracking Employer And Landlord to the detriment of employees or tenants. An even more serious problem is putting this information in the hands of government agencies whose decisions are lawful.

Government agencies are often reluctant to disclose how they use privately acquired data for law enforcement purposes. However, such purchases allow them to circumvent surveillance restrictions put in place to protect our civil liberties. Police authorities have circumvented the ban on facial recognition by go to third parties for their facial recognition search results. In 2018, ICE said it made an arrest and deportation as part of a “routine traffic stop,” but happened to have done so as well He bought certain cell tower data that could have contributed to the arrest.

To make matters worse, the data being sold to these powerful institutions may not even be accurate. In addition to being vulnerable to hacker attackson which information from data brokers is often based discriminatory algorithms and prejudices and still can When creating profiles, we often confuse your age, ethnicity and religion. When the government takes law enforcement action based on inaccurate data, the rights of all Americans are at risk.

Biden’s proposed protection for reproductive health data is a step in the right direction, but by itself it’s far from enough. Congress must ban government purchases of sensitive location data and close this major privacy loophole — because as long as your information is for sale, the government will keep buying it.

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