FBI Finally Admits It Bought Tracking Data on US Citizens

FBI Finally Admits It Bought Tracking Data on US Citizens

(UnitedVoice.com) – The Supreme Court tackled data privacy in the 2018 ruling in Carpenter v. United States. The case revolved around a man named Timothy Carpenter, who was convicted of a crime after the police used his cell phone data without a warrant. According to the Justices’ 5 to 4 decision, the government has to obtain a warrant to obtain a person’s cellphone location history. To not do so would be a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The ruling contained a glaring loophole. Law enforcement wasn’t allowed the location data without a warrant unless it was purchasing it through a third party. The FBI director recently announced that’s exactly what the agency has done in the past.

FBI Director’s Confession

On March 8, CIA Director William Burns, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, and NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. During the testimony, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked FBI Director Christopher Wray if the FBI purchases US phone geolocation data.

According to Wired, Wray responded that the FBI has purchased the location data in the past. However, he said the agency is not currently buying the information from third parties. Also, he was sure to specify the FBI bought it from companies that collected the information for advertising.

The director said the federal law enforcement agency had previously bought the “information for a specific national security pilot project.” He told Wyden the project hadn’t been “active for some time,” and he doesn’t plan to change that.

Surveillance Program

The US government has been under fire for the mass surveillance of American citizens since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have long complained about the program, but have failed to pass a comprehensive law that actually stops the government from spying on its citizens.

The FBI, in particular, has a long, sordid history of spying on Americans. It dates back decades. During the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War, and other points in history, the agency kept files on Americans they believed were threats.

As technology has advanced, so have the FBI’s methods. The revelation by Wray has disturbed opponents of such surveillance programs. Sean Vitka, a policy attorney at the nonprofit Demand Progress, called the director’s revelations “horrifying.” He said the agency has a responsibility to give the American people more information about the data purchases, and Congress should prohibit it entirely.

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