Report: Data brokers selling personal information to US government, private entities, foreign governments

Chances are your personal data has been purchased by U.S. intelligence agencies, along with millions of other Americans with very little oversight, according to a newly declassified government report published on June 9. 

The report, published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, says that data brokers are collecting information from Americans' phones, web browsers and cars and have contracts with several government agencies adding that it could cause severe harm to civil liberties. 

The data includes "commercially available information." In layman's terms, think geolocation data, phone records, health data on smartwatches and much more. 

The recently declassified report which was completed in January 2022 explains that U.S. agencies like the FBI, Department of Defense, U.S. Navy and more use this data to look at social media reports on individuals seeking security clearance. A small aspect of the larger story. 

The report assures the use of data from data brokers is aimed at tracking down "threat actors and not innocent persons."

Because this data includes exactly locations of millions of Americans, the report suggests that the widespread availability of such data could be misused by government officials to "facilitate blackmail, stalking, harassment, and public shaming."

Despite the Fourth Amendment protecting Americans from law enforcement agencies acquiring detailed location information about one person, this data is rampant and the report goes on with several examples of why many should be concerned. 

That's because it's not just the U.S. government buying the data. The report adds that private-sector and non-governmental entities as well as governments abroad are buying this data. 

The report urges U.S. agencies to improve oversight policies surrounding commercially available data in order to protect the liberties of Americans as the data is becoming "increasingly powerful…and increasingly sensitive." 

"Today, in a way that far fewer Americans seem to understand, and even fewer of them can avoid, [commercially available data] includes information on nearly everyone that is of a type and level of sensitivity that historically could have been obtained, if at all, only through targeted (and predicated) collection, and that could be used to cause harm to an individual’s reputation, emotional well-being, or physical safety," the report says.