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The US Is Openly Stockpiling Dirt on All Its Citizens

Wired – The US Is Openly Stockpiling Dirt on All Its Citizens “A newly declassified report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence reveals that the federal government is buying troves of data about Americans…Perhaps most controversially, the report states that the government believes it can “persistently” track the phones of “millions of Americans” without a warrant, so long as it pays for the information. Were the government to simply demand access to a device’s location instead, it would be considered a Fourth Amendment “search” and would require a judge’s sign-off. But because companies are willing to sell the information—not only to the US government but to other companies as well—the government considers it “publicly available” and therefore asserts that it “can purchase it.” It is no secret, the report adds, that it is often trivial “to deanonymize and identify individuals” from data that was packaged as ethically fine for commercial use because it had been “anonymized” first. Such data may be useful, it says, to “identify every person who attended a protest or rally based on their smartphone location or ad-tracking records.” Such civil liberties concerns are prime examples of how “large quantities of nominally ‘public’ information can result in sensitive aggregations.” What’s more, information collected for one purpose “may be reused for other purposes,” which may “raise risks beyond those originally calculated,” an effect called “mission creep.”  Most Americans have at least some idea of how a law enforcement investigation unfolds (if only from watching years of police procedurals). This idea imagines a cop whose ability to surveil them, turn their phone into a tracking device, or start squeezing records out of businesses they frequent, are all gated behind evidentiary thresholds, like reasonable doubt and probable cause…”

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