US Agencies Are Getting Easy Access To Users’ Personal Information Online

By now, we’re sure you’re well aware of the fact that so many leading tech organizations are selling personal information belonging to users online.

From location history to even their device activity, a number of leading agencies across the US are involved in the act of buying data, as recently confirmed by the ACLU.

But who exactly are the buyers is a question on many people’s minds. Well, the answer is government officials, data brokers, law enforcement agencies, and even some advertisers.

While it’s quite clear that state-owned institutions can gain access to such data easily through their own channels, the ACLU recently highlighted a number of documents publicly which prove how swiftly the action is being done on a routine basis.

This compounded by a lack of surveillance on where such data is being used and a failure to outline who the most vulnerable victims are can further aggravate the problem.

The ACLU has called this behavior a complete violation of the country’s Fourth Amendment while calling out regulatory bodies to take notice and action on such engagements.

But new reports show how many officials from the US continue to justify their behaviors. And that is why the ACLU feels the time has come to adopt change.

This is why they’re calling out for new laws and policies that close the gap between agencies getting a hold of users’ private data with this much ease.

Recently, a total of 6000 unreleased records were evaluated by the courts after the ACLU put forward a case where a number of stats opened up so many people’s minds regarding the number of data that was being handled by the country’s Customs and Border Control. This included immigration agencies and the country’s Homeland Department too.

The shocking documents put into perspective the number of funds utilized from these respective agencies to get nearly 340,000 smartphone-based data involving users’ location points.

A report by the Wall Street Journal highlighted how the data had been used to determine and locate which citizens failed to pay their taxes while also delineating immigrants living freely in the nation without any documents.

A lot of the data dates back to the last four years and one particular data broker being highlighted was Venntel who not only collected such data but also sold them off on a daily basis by scraping them from social media apps. In return, they received the best-targeted campaigns for ads.

Interestingly, there is no law that forbids any law enforcement or government agency in the country from making such purchases.

Another striking point to take notice of is that although data doesn’t specify details like the name or the IDs of various devices, authorities can go about linking them to data taken from leading public sources or even profiles.

This is why the ACLU is pushing for a new clause in the Fourth Amendment that prevents the further selling off of user data by the government including any purchases being made by them in this regard.

In cases where it is considered to be absolutely necessary, well, then they can request permission from the court and work with data brokers. You can well think of it like cops having the permission to get a hold of a suspect’s address with an arrest warrant by their side.

But authorities are not willing to let the case go without putting forward an intense argument. They say that all data is being shared by users through voluntary means.

Remember, very few people with smartphone devices go the extra mile to determine what’s written in their terms of service for different apps. And that just makes the matter a huge concern for lawmakers.

Read next: New Survey Reveals That Parents Are Concerned About Children Interacting With Technology, But Are Not Blind To Its Benefits
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