According to a letter by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, the National Security Agency (NSA) is collecting sensitive user data without their consent or a warrant.
The Senator wrote in his 3-page (without the attachments) letter that the NSA is collecting American users’ data illegally through smartphone applications. The letter highlighted that the data is being shared with the NSA by app developers via data brokers without the consumers’ knowledge.
The letter noted:
“As you know , U.S. intelligence agencies are purchasing personal data about Americans that would require a court order if the government demanded it from communications companies. I first revealed in 2021 that the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was purchasing, storing, and using domestic location data. Such location data is collected from Americans smartphones by app developers, sold to data brokers, resold to defense contractors, and then resold again to the government. In addition; the National Security Agency (NSA) is buying Americans domestic internet metadata.”
The letter adds that consumers in the U.S. have been kept in the dark about their data and its privacy. They are not explicitly told who their data is being shared with and where it is being used. This is more concerning since their data is being sold to data brokers and being purchased by government agencies.
The Senator pointed out that individuals must be told of such transactions with the government. He added that in his seven years of investigation of the data broker industry, he is unaware of any company that warns consumers thoroughly about their data privacy.
The letter concludes with guidelines that could help improve the situation. It suggests that information obtained by the NSA, such as location data, must be investigated. Secondly, the source of the data should be checked to see if it is illegal. Lastly, all intelligence collected illegally must be eradicated.
The document also highlights concerns of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding location data collected and sold by data broker X-Mode Social. This information was shared with members of the U.S. military.
The FTC urged that consumers must be made aware of such practices as they may raise legal and safety concerns, especially if it is Internet metadata and location data. Such content is highly personal to users. Internet metadata would include records of when a user makes calls to seek help from a suicide or domestic abuse survivors’ hotline. Moreover, if a user contacts a healthcare provider for specific healthcare records or is prescribed medication, these records are also part of internet metadata.