Privacy and Internet Freedom Advocate Demands End to Flagrant Violations
Senator Wyden, a staunch advocate for privacy and internet freedom, has urged U.S. intelligence officials to halt the unlawful use of Americans’ personal data without their knowledge and consent. In a letter addressed to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Wyden highlighted the unethical and illegal practices of a shady industry that the U.S. government should not be funding and legitimizing.
Blocking Appointment Until Questions Answered
Senator Wyden had previously blocked the appointment of incoming NSA Director Timothy Haugh, pending a response from the agency regarding the collection of Americans’ internet and location data. Expressing concerns about the potential misuse of such data, Wyden pushed for the public release of information that demonstrates the NSA’s acquisition of Americans’ internet records. He emphasized that such records could expose sensitive information about individuals seeking help from suicide hotlines or hotlines for survivors of sexual assault or domestic abuse.
Confirmation of Data Purchases
In response to Wyden’s concerns, NSA Director General Paul Nakasone confirmed the agency’s purchase of these records. He acknowledged that the collected data may include information associated with electronic devices used both inside and outside the United States. The NSA attempted to justify these purchases by highlighting their significance for national security and cybersecurity missions, claiming that such data is acquired sparingly and subject to technical filters to minimize the collection of information from U.S. citizens.
Violation of Standards
Wyden argued that the acquisition of Americans’ browsing data by the NSA violates standards set by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). He cited a recent FTC order that prohibited a data broker, Outlogic (formerly known as X-Mode Social), from selling sensitive location data. The senator emphasized the lack of transparency from app developers and advertising companies, who have failed to disclose their sale and sharing of personal data with data brokers, thereby neglecting to obtain informed consent from users.
Call for Accountability and Transparency
In his letter to Director Haines, Senator Wyden demanded that the U.S. intelligence community compile an inventory of all the personal data belonging to Americans held by the NSA. He further urged the purging of any data that does not align with the FTC’s standards. Wyden also called for IC elements to communicate any specific needs for data retention to Congress and, to the greatest extent possible, to the American public, ensuring accountability and transparency in the intelligence community’s actions.
Reuters contributed to this report.