(USNewsMag.com) – New documents released by a Democratic senator show that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been purchasing American citizens’ internet browsing data from commercial brokers without obtaining warrants to do so.
The revelations came from documents shared by Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, who received a letter from NSA Director Paul Nakasone that contained recently unclassified documents. These documents showed that the NSA buys US citizens’ data from commercial data brokers, including information about what apps they use and what websites they visit.
The Dec. 11 letter was publicized by Wyden on Thursday, Jan. 25, in a letter he sent to Avril Haines, the Director of National Intelligence. In that letter, he called on intelligence officials to stop unlawfully obtaining and using the personal data of Americans, who were unaware and did not consent. Wyden is a major advocate for internet freedom and data privacy, and a sitting member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
He wrote that the government shouldn’t be “funding and legitimizing” an industry Wyden described as “shady,” which he said flagrantly violates “Americans’ privacy” unethically and illegally. Wyden also blocked the new incoming NSA director from being appointed until he received a proper response to his questions about the agency’s activities in data collection.
In a press release, Wyden said that he’s been pushing for almost three years to be able to publicly release this information that confirmed the NSA is buying internet records of American citizens. Nakasone’s letter proves this is happening by admitting that data collected by the NSA “may include information” from devices “used outside” the US and, “in certain cases,” inside the country.
The senator said that the purchase of data by the “data broker industry” and intelligence community “has existed in a legal gray area” up until very recently. In his letter to Haines, he is also requesting the creation of an inventory of the NSA’s existing data on American citizens and for the agency to purge anything that’s out of compliance with US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) standards.
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