Feds Sidestep Privacy Act By Buying Data
“Furor and confusion over allegations that major phone companies have surrendered customer calling records to the National Security Agency continue to roil Washington. But if AT&T Inc. and possibly others have turned over records to the NSA, the phone giants represent only one of many commercial sources of personal data that the government seeks to “mine” for evidence of terrorist plots and other threats.
“The Departments of Justice, State, and Homeland Security spend millions annually to buy commercial databases that track Americans’ finances, phone numbers, and biographical information, according to a report last month by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. Often, the agencies and their contractors don’t ensure the data’s accuracy, the GAO found.”
BusinessWeek Online. The Snooping Goes Beyond Phone Calls. May 29, 2006.
Robert O’Harrow Jr. Agencies Not Protecting Privacy Rights, GAO Says. WashingtonPost.com. April 5, 2006.
General Accounting Office. Personal Information: Agencies and Resellers Vary In Providing Privacy Protection (GAO-06-609T). (.pdf) April 4, 2006. (Abstract: “In fiscal year 2005, the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and State and the Social Security Administration reported that they used personal information obtained from resellers for a variety of purposes, including performing criminal investigations, locating witnesses and fugitives, researching assets held by individuals of interest, and detecting prescription drug fraud. The agencies spent approximately $30 million on contractual arrangements with resellers that enabled the acquisition and use of such information. About 91 percent of the planned fiscal year 2005 spending was for law enforcement (69 percent) or counterterrorism (22 percent).”)
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