Congress examine how some federal agencies may be accessing your personal data

WASHINGTON D.C. — Your digital footprint can be bought and sold by data brokers and now there are some concerns that the federal government is accessing your personal data too.

“Investigative reporters have discovered that federal agencies have secretly been paying data brokers to gain access to vast troves of Americans’ personal data including cellphone location,” said Elizabeth Goitein, senior director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.

Goitein said some federal agencies are finding loopholes around a 2018 Supreme Court ruling that requires law enforcement officials to get a warrant to access your cellphone location history.

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“The court reasoned that this information can reveal the most intimate details about someone’s life, associations, habits, even their beliefs,” said Goitein. “Moreover there really is nothing voluntary about sharing this information because cellphones aren’t optional in modern society.”

Newly released documents from the ACLU show that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, secretly bought location data.

Moving forward, some advocates are urging Congress to pass the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act, which would prohibit government agencies from accessing personal data without a court order.


“U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies will still have powerful legal tools at their fingertips which to follow leads that can catch terrorists, spies and dangerous criminals. They will just have to follow the rules,” said Bob Goodlatte, senior policy advisor at the Project for Privacy & Surveillance Accountability.

Republican Congressman Jim Jordan is echoing the need to crack down on this issue.

“This must include us taking a look at government’s access to commercially available bulk data and its use of tools like PEGUS that allows them to spy on encrypted mobile devices,” said Jordan. “It should also include us considering restrictions on the government’s use of facial recognition technology within the United States to target citizens.”

We reached out to ICE and the Department of Homeland Security and an ICE spokesperson says the agency is working on this request. We have not heard back from DHS.

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