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You pay the gov't to buy your data

(June 24 2006) Written by: Joe Conley

Why waste the time to obtain warrants or worry about the legality of spying on citizens when you can just pass a PATRIOT act to make it OK to spy at will? Better yet, why waste time in the courts or in congress at all when you can use citizen's own money to buy their sensative data from companies that collect that information illegally?

U.S. Gov't Spent $30M On Citizens' Personal Info:

"Numerous federal and local law enforcement agencies have bypassed subpoenas and warrants designed to protect civil liberties and gathered Americans' personal telephone records from private-sector data brokers.

These brokers, many of whom advertise aggressively on the Internet, have gotten into customer accounts online, tricked phone companies into revealing information and even acknowledged that their practices violate laws, according to documents gathered by congressional investigators and provided to The Associated Press.

The law enforcement agencies include offices in the Homeland Security Department and Justice Department — including the FBI and U.S. Marshal's Service — and municipal police departments in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia and Utah. Experts believe hundreds of other departments frequently use such services.

Congressional investigators estimated the U.S. government spent $30 million last year buying personal data from private brokers. But that number likely understates the breadth of transactions, since brokers said they rarely charge law enforcement agencies any price.

Congressional investigators estimated the U.S. government spent $30 million last year buying personal data from private brokers. But that number likely understates the breadth of transactions, since brokers said they rarely charge law enforcement agencies any price.

PDJ said it always provided help to police for free. "Agencies from all across the country took advantage of it," said PDJ's lawyer, Larry Slade of Los Angeles.

A lawmaker who has investigated the industry said Monday he was concerned by the practices of data brokers.

"We know law enforcement has used this because it is easily obtained and you can gather a lot of information very quickly," said Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., head of the House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee. The panel expects to conduct hearings this week.

Whitfield said data companies will relentlessly pursue a target's personal information. "They will impersonate and use everything available that they have to convince the person who has the information to share it with them, and it's shocking how successful they are," Whitfield said. "They can basically obtain any information about anybody on any subject."

The congressman said laws on the subject are vague: "There's a good chance there are some laws being broken, but it's not really clear precisely which laws."

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