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Data Mining: Law Enforcement Pays Cash for Your Private Data and Saves on the Hassle of Complying With the Fourth Amendment

by Douglas Ankney

According to an investigation by The Wall Street Journal, a company known as Near Intelligence purchases individuals’ private data from brokers who usually sell the data to advertisers, but Near Intelligence sells the data to government contractors who then pass the data along to federal military and intelligence agencies. Near Intelligence claims it has purchased data on more than a billion cell phones and other devices, and the government has purchased access to geolocation data on all of those devices, circumventing the Fourth Amendment’s probable cause and warrant requirements.

Because of companies like Near Intelligence and FogData Science, and Venntel, police can simply click a mouse and surveil the devices of people who attended a protest, track them to their residences, and target them for future surveillance/harassment. Police may also stalk people whose devices entered an immigration attorney’s office, a reproductive clinic, or a mental health facility. There have even been reports of law enforcement agents using surveillance tools for personal vendettas.

There is no comprehensive law protecting users’ private data from collection and sale to law enforcement agencies. But according to a report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the “Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act is a bipartisan, commonsense law that would ban the U.S. government from purchasing data it would otherwise need a warrant to acquire.”   



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