The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

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The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

Government acquisition of advertising data instigates privacy concerns

The Exascale-class HPE Cray EX Supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory / Oak Ridge National Laboratory / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0 DEED
The Frontier supercomputer in Oak Ridge National Laboratory runs tests, calculations, and stores and collects data. It is the fastest supercomputer in the world.

United States intelligence agencies acquire and retain personal data on Americans with minimal oversight and guidelines. This practice enhances law enforcement’s effectiveness, but many argue it infringes on privacy rights.

Data collection concerns

Initially published in January 2022, a declassified government report confirms that the U.S. purchases commercially available information (CAI), such as advertising data on individuals, including their location, credit history, criminal records, income, ethnicity, and personal interests. For a fee, this data is bought from third-party data brokers and stored in data centers in facilities such as the Pentagon or through supercomputers such as the Frontier in Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The lack of data protection laws governing the sharing or selling of Americans’ data concerns most people. While federal laws cover specific data categories such as medical and student records, no laws grant Americans rights to access, delete, or control their own personal information, posing significant privacy risks, especially with how universal data is collected.

A Pew Research study showed that Americans, especially Republicans, are growing more concerned about how the government uses the data it collects about them. 

U.S. government use of CAI

The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) buys smartphone geolocation metadata, analyzing it to differentiate domestic and international sources. The FBI and law enforcement use it to monitor individuals with criminal backgrounds or potential threats.

Military and government bodies like the U.S. Navy, Treasury Department, Department of Defense, and Coast Guard procure this data. The IRS also uses it against tax fraud, and Homeland Security tracks undocumented immigrants.

According to WIRED, the Pentagon tracks Russian President Vladimir Putin’s entourage’s phones through data obtained from technologist Mike Yeagley, exclusively for government use. This highlights the government’s global influence via collected data.

Law enforcement has successfully apprehended criminals through this process and is likely to continue using mass data collection techniques.

Dangers of foreign data use

While people acknowledge that the government is unlikely to misuse their data, concerns arise due to foreign threats, hacking, and the desire for privacy rights.

A Duke University study revealed that advertised data brokers can furnish information identifying U.S. military personnel. Many people are concerned about the potential foreign use of this information, which could lead to targeted hacking and election interference.

The widespread availability of user data raises concerns about government infringement on Americans’ civil liberties, especially amid risks of foreign intervention. This prompts questions about the need to modernize and strengthen privacy laws on personal data.

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About the Contributor
Jayden Breite
Jayden Breite, Staff Writer
Jayden Breite (Class of 2026) plays soccer and video games and enjoys photography and working on his car, a 1966 Ford Mustang Coupe. He covers news and loves to cover stories in big cities like San Francisco. You can find him refereeing and playing soccer, driving or photographing old cars, and learning more about the local Bay Area in every way possible.

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