Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Congress To "Investigate" Data Sellers

The word in Washington is that the NSA uses commercial data sellers to obtain information that it is legally not able to gather itself. Not that the niceties of strict adherence to the law has been a big concern in recent years.

Considering some of the other customers of these companies, this investigation may not turn out to be terribly thorough.

Congress begins hearings Wednesday on the techniques used by private data-collection companies to obtain phone records and other information.

Law enforcement agencies often go to such companies for information. They do so to save time and avoid seeking subpoenas or warrants for the information, even though the data brokers do not always obtain their information legitimately, according to an investigation by the House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee. Agencies using data from these companies include the FBI, Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security and state and municipal police departments from Florida to California.

"Most of these data brokers procure the records and information, either themselves or through third-party vendors, by the use of pretext -- that is, the use of ruse, lies and deception to gain access to information that is not publicly available and which they do not have the consent of the 'target' to procure," subcommittee spokesman Kevin Schweers says. "Many documents show that the data brokers are completely aware that the phone records and other information is largely acquired through pretext."

The subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., will hold a series of hearings on the matter...

The subcommittee's investigation found that law enforcement agencies often turn to data brokers for phone records, such as unlisted numbers and information on calls made and received by suspects in an investigation. In many cases, officers would have to get a warrant or subpoena to get the same information from phone companies.

This spring, the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, reported that federal law enforcement agencies spent about $30 million last year to buy information from data brokers. That figure, however, only includes money paid to legitimate data-collection companies, Schweers says. Smaller, less scrupulous firms often do not charge law enforcement agencies for data, he says, so gauging how often federal, state and local authorities use them is difficult.


Blogger Meatball One said...

Since a major component of the Catch All project is about establishing runaway strategic competitive advantages (commercial intelligence) over ascending industrial powers, the involvement of the private sector makes perfect sense from angles a plenty.

(I guess I'm long overdue for an explanation)

6/22/2006 12:16 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...


"always hele, forever conceal, and never reveal any of the secret arts, parts, or points..."

6/22/2006 12:27 PM  

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