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They're Snooping More Than Phone Calls

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posted on May, 23 2006 @ 05:39 PM
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The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that the Justice, State, and Homeland Security Departments have spent millions purchasing commerically available databases. These databases often contain personally identifying information. By purchasing the databases from commercial sources, the agencies are able to dodge certain privacy laws like The Privacy Act of 1974
 



www.businessweek.com
The Departments of Justice, State, and Homeland Security spend millions annually to buy commercial databases that track Americans' finances, phone numbers, and biographical information, according to a report last month by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. Often, the agencies and their contractors don't ensure the data's accuracy, the GAO found.

Buying commercially collected data allows the government to dodge certain privacy rules. The Privacy Act of 1974 restricts how federal agencies may use such information and requires disclosure of what the government is doing with it. But the law applies only when the government is doing the data collecting.




Please visit the link provided for the complete story.


Another piece of the big picture.

It's a requirement of The Privacy Act of 1974 that if a commercial enterprise collects data on behalf of the government, they are also bound by the Act. However, in this day of incredible pork-barrel spending, legislative favoritism, and governmental heavy-handed tactics, how difficult would it be to have that data customized without any formal agreements?

In particular, check the link to the GAO's list of investigative databases. Those are the databases made public. I guarantee, there are some huge databases out there with our information in them.

The federal government already has a good deal of information about us. What justification could there be for purchasing commercial databases?



Related News Links:
www.gao.gov
www.cdt.org
www.washingtonpost.com

Related AboveTopSecret.com Discussion Threads:
OP/ED: Cracks in the Facade
(submission) Wired News published AT&T documents under seal in NSA wiretap case
NSA is keeping logs of phones calls in the US

[edit on 23-5-2006 by MrPenny]

[edit on 23-5-2006 by DontTreadOnMe]

[edit on 23-5-2006 by MrPenny]




posted on May, 23 2006 @ 07:53 PM
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Isn't this interesting. The government can buy what they cannot easily gain on their own. Yet all these other sources were allowed to collect our data in the first place. Data that should never have been allowed to be compliled for sale in the first place. But this data collection has been legitimately going on for years? Stuff the government wasn't able to compile legally?

I have to be interpreting this wrong. It just doesn't make any sense, unless it was the plan all along to just come and get what they wanted through the backdoor in the first place. It certainly explains a lot of whys regarding the data collection in the first place.



posted on May, 23 2006 @ 08:22 PM
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For me, the issue here is that the commercial companies collected the information in hopes of selling us something, focusing ads to certain demographics and using it for feedback for benign business needs. What is a company who is bound by privacy laws going to do with my information?

However, the only reason I can think for a government, who is not bound by the same privacy laws, to purchase this information is to exert some kind of control. Something tells me they don't want to this millions of dollars of info to assess ways to better serve the people.


The government (supposedly) works for us. How would we feel if an employee secretly gathered and bought information about his employer? Information such as bank account numbers and transactions, telephone numbers, Credit card numbers and so on? He's be fired.

Think! It's patriotic! up:



posted on May, 23 2006 @ 10:19 PM
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from MrPenny
The federal government already has a good deal of information about us. What justification could there be for purchasing commercial databases?

Possibly to compare the databases against census data records? Census's are taken once every 10 years, which is a long interval between them.


from Benevolent Heretic
How would we feel if an employee secretly gathered and bought information about his employer? Information such as bank account numbers and transactions, telephone numbers, Credit card numbers and so on? He's be fired.

We've seen several occasions here where employees have stolen data from their employers and released it to the media. They have been called the "true patriots". Whistleblowers, instead of thieves.



posted on May, 24 2006 @ 01:20 AM
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Originally posted by jsobecky

from Benevolent Heretic
How would we feel if an employee secretly gathered and bought information about his employer? Information such as bank account numbers and transactions, telephone numbers, Credit card numbers and so on? He's be fired.

We've seen several occasions here where employees have stolen data from their employers and released it to the media. They have been called the "true patriots". Whistleblowers, instead of thieves.


Yes, that is true. And do you know what? They have been called "true patriots" ( a sobriquet you seem to disagree with) because their revelations have, in many instances, brought to light the Illegal, Immoral, and Reprehensible actions of their employers!

You would attempt to disparage "whistleblowers" as common thieves?

Would you thus decry as "unfair" the "Justice" of stealing from a crimminal? How (suprisingly) Liberal of you! Could it be that we should perhaps soon expect you to begin arguing in favor of Fair, Just, and Humane treatment of suspected "terrorists"?


What have I missed? Has Satan himself suddenly requested treatment for frostbite?



posted on May, 24 2006 @ 05:30 AM
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ahhh, if we're lucky, the idiots will lose alll of this data to the id theives, and the whole system will come crashing down on top of them....

I'm sure, whatever they plan to do with this information, well, they'll do with major blunders and nothing will turn out the way they want it to anyways.....and they have alot more to lose than I do...



posted on May, 24 2006 @ 05:33 AM
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Originally posted by Bhadhidar
Yes, that is true. And do you know what? They have been called "true patriots" ( a sobriquet you seem to disagree with) because their revelations have, in many instances, brought to light the Illegal, Immoral, and Reprehensible actions of their employers!

Two wrongs do not make a right. Are you saying that someone should be able to break into your private residence and gather incrimnating evidence against you??

I don't disagree with the label - I disagree with it's liberal application. When the same actions by the gov't or law enforcement would result in cries of outrage.


You would attempt to disparage "whistleblowers" as common thieves?

I would disparage thieves as thieves.


Would you thus decry as "unfair" the "Justice" of stealing from a crimminal? How (suprisingly) Liberal of you! Could it be that we should perhaps soon expect you to begin arguing in favor of Fair, Just, and Humane treatment of suspected "terrorists"?

I have no idea what you are trying to say. But I will say this: I have been called many things here, but I've never been called a liberal!



posted on May, 24 2006 @ 05:45 AM
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Wasn't AT&T involved in something like that with the NSA? I'm from Ireland so not sure what exactly is going on but it seems kind of 1984-ish.



posted on May, 24 2006 @ 08:21 AM
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Originally posted by jsobecky
Possibly to compare the databases against census data records? Census's are taken once every 10 years, which is a long interval between them.


The U.S. Census Bureau is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. I don't see where they are buying databases. A full census is taken every 10 years. Between these periods, the Census Bureau is not sitting on its hands; it is constantly updating and tweaking data with regional and focused surveys. I would assume that they would be the appropriate first source for census related information and analysis.

The question remains....What might the purpose be for the State Dept., the Justice Dept.(!?), and Dept. of Homeland Security (!?), to purchase commercial data? My opinion is, they are sifting and mining our personal data looking for unusual patterns...without probable cause.



posted on May, 24 2006 @ 08:26 AM
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Originally posted by sepryo
Wasn't AT&T involved in something like that with the NSA? I'm from Ireland so not sure what exactly is going on but it seems kind of 1984-ish.

It you're prone to paranoia, it is very 1984-ish. Huge amounts of personal data, being sifted and analyzed by who-knows-what, huge numbers of cell phones that can be located via satellite, etc, etc,....

AT&T, BellSouth, Verizon,....they all may be involved, problem is, our prez may have given them a legal foundation for lying about it.



posted on May, 24 2006 @ 01:46 PM
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These databases are commercially available. To practically anyone who has the means to pay for them.

Now, I suppose that the gov't could duplicate the efforts of these providers, at about ten times the cost, or they could purchase them. Unless, of course, they are breaking some law by doing so.

So my question to you, MrPenny, is what laws are being broken here? The gov't purchases many things from private suppliers; in fact, almost everything, from pencils to computers to food to clothes.

What is the problem?



posted on May, 24 2006 @ 02:26 PM
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What law is being broken? Did I miss the trial date? How the heck should I know?....I'm not a lawyer, a judge, a paralegal, or a constitutional expert. I'm a citizen who is trying to pay attention to what the gov't is doing.

For that matter...since when do I need to know the exact statute to raise an alarm about any unusual circumstances? If it looks like someone is breaking the law all it takes is, "Hey, it looks like someone is breaking into the neighbor's house!!"

What is the problem? That's an amazingly obtuse question. It would in fact, be against the law for the government to collect this sort of data themselves. Dodging the law by buying the data is unusual in itself. If it was O.K. to have the data, they would collect it themselves (in fact, the Census Bureau makes it a point to remove personally identifiable information from its data).

The Privacy Act of 1974 was written well before the evolution of the Internet, modern databases, and analytical software. It is unfortunate it could not foresee the government's ability to purchase information that they are specifically forbidden to collect themselves.

Let me lob the obtuse ball back into your court...By your reckoning, if I have the money it would be O.K. to purchase your personal information for my own personal use I suppose.



posted on May, 24 2006 @ 02:47 PM
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Originally posted by MrPenny
What is the problem? That's an amazingly obtuse question. It would in fact, be against the law for the government to collect this sort of data themselves.

Really? And you can back this up with....?

If it was O.K. to have the data, they would collect it themselves (in fact, the Census Bureau makes it a point to remove personally identifiable information from its data).

Not necessarily. As I have stated, the gov't is a major consumer of goods and services. I would not want them to be in the textile manufacturing business, the agricultural business, the computer R&D and manufacturing business, or many others. If you are in favor of them doing all that, then you must subscribe to the gov't ownership of all types of production. What is that called? Socialism, I believe.


The Privacy Act of 1974 was written well before the evolution of the Internet, modern databases, and analytical software. It is unfortunate it could not foresee the government's ability to purchase information that they are specifically forbidden to collect themselves.

Yeah, I heard the same thing on TV that you did. Too bad the Constitution was written before transistors were invented, eh?


Let me lob the obtuse ball back into your court...By your reckoning, if I have the money it would be O.K. to purchase your personal information for my own personal use I suppose.

Yes it would be, and it happens every day. Just how much do you think that Experian, TransUnion, and EquiFax know about you?

Nothing I am saying is obtuse. I am just inquiring as to your knee-jerk reaction to the word "database". You've already stated that you know nothing about any laws that might be involved, correct? And just what do you know about databases?



posted on May, 24 2006 @ 08:52 PM
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Originally posted by jsobecky

Originally posted by MrPenny
What is the problem? That's an amazingly obtuse question. It would in fact, be against the law for the government to collect this sort of data themselves.

Really? And you can back this up with....?



Each agency that maintains a system of records shall--

(1) maintain in its records only such information about an individual as is relevant and necessary to accomplish a purpose of the agency required to be accomplished by statute or by Executive order of the President;

(2) collect information to the greatest extent practicable directly from the subject individual when the information may result in adverse determinations about an individual's rights, benefits, and privileges under Federal programs;

From The Privacy Act of 1974

What the hell does the government's consumption of consumer goods have to do with this issue?

So, if I can purchase your SSN, name, address, etc., you would have no problem with me opening accounts and becoming a consumer of goods and services, in your name?

Explain why this is a "knee-jerk" reaction?

I'll allow that what I know about databases may have some bearing on this issue. Most important, the database and the data in it are worthless until it is turned into information. My point being, if the federal government is buying data, they are turning it into information. So what data is missing from the IRS, Social Security Administration, U.S. Census Bureau, Veteran's Administration, et al...that isn't quite up to snuff?

If your position on the issue is "so what?", it's pointless to attempt an explanation. Particularly when you insist on making bizarre assumptions and bringing up completely irrelevant points.



posted on May, 25 2006 @ 02:34 AM
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Originally posted by MrPenny

What the hell does the government's consumption of consumer goods have to do with this issue?

Huh? Because this is the essence of your argument, isn't it? That the gov't is buying commercially available information?

It is not cost effective, nor prudent, for the gov't to create things which are more cheaply available from the private sector.

You are saying that the gov't is prohibited from gathering data x. But nothing prevents Company A from gathering that data. And also, nothing prohibits the gov't from buying data x from Company A.

Does this make sense?


So, if I can purchase your SSN, name, address, etc., you would have no problem with me opening accounts and becoming a consumer of goods and services, in your name?

Try it and I'll have your butt in a sling before you can whistle Dixie.

I suggest that you hold off on the knee-jerk "The gov't bought a database!" reactions until you know a bit more about the topic.



posted on May, 25 2006 @ 04:58 AM
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there is at least one purpose that I can think of that they could use this information for. They want to chickens, rabbits, cows, ect and the program is being implemented now. Once fully implemented, by what I hear, if I decided to have one ch icken or rabbit in my back yard, well, I would be required to send a copy of every person who stepped onto my premises to I believe the dept. of agriculture. Well, it's just a tiny little chicken, how would they know I have it, right...

they track down who has bought the chicken feed....

I imagine by using databases like this.

I have a very small cat that I keep indoors all the time. She hides whenever a stranger is in our house, I could conceivably hide her from everyone. But, I couldn't hide the fact that I buy catfood from the governement if they decided they wanted her chipped....



posted on May, 25 2006 @ 06:36 AM
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So saw this article, what's the story with that?

www.wired.com...



posted on May, 25 2006 @ 09:13 AM
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This and other quotes originally posted by jsobecky
It is not cost effective, nor prudent, for the gov't to create things which are more cheaply available from the private sector.


Ha ha ha ahahah, ha ha,.............That's hilarious...that's a knee-slapper.......they're so well known for their prudence and cost effectiveness. Five good years out of, what?....Forty?




You are saying that the gov't is prohibited from gathering data x. But nothing prevents Company A from gathering that data. And also, nothing prohibits the gov't from buying data x from Company A.

Let's replace "data x" with "personal, private, data":
You are saying that the gov't is prohibited from gathering "personal, private, data". But nothing prevents Company A from gathering that "personal, private, data". And also, nothing prohibits the gov't from buying "personal, private, data" from Company A. This isn't about something as everyday as,.. I don't know,..plumbing specs.

Actually, by this layman's interpretation (I know, go a. spin that one), the government isn't prohibited from gathering the data. However, they are restricted by the Privacy Act in what they can do with the data and the level of disclosure the data is subject to.

I thought the issue was easily deduced from the original article. The fact that they bought the data isn't the issue. They already collect much of this data already. By buying it, they neatly sidestep the provisions in the Privacy Act and can snoop through the data and arrive at conclusions based on the data, free from any legal constraints. No warrants, no subpoenas or court orders, no probable cause.

My issue is also with the involved agencies.

As the lead foreign affairs agency, the Department of State has the primary role in:
* Leading interagency coordination in developing and implementing foreign policy;
* Managing the foreign affairs budget and other foreign affairs resources;
* Leading and coordinating U.S. representation abroad, conveying U.S. foreign policy to foreign governments and international organizations through U.S. embassies and consulates in foreign countries and diplomatic missions to international organizations;
* Conducting negotiations and concluding agreements and treaties on issues ranging from trade to nuclear weapons;
* Coordinating and supporting international activities of other U.S. agencies and officials.

The services the Department provides include:
* Protecting and assisting U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad;
* Assisting U.S. businesses in the international marketplace;
* Coordinating and providing support for international activities of other U.S. agencies (local, state, or federal government), official visits overseas and at home, and other diplomatic efforts.
* Keeping the public informed about U.S. foreign policy and relations with other countries and providing feedback from the public to administration officials.

Source: U.S. Dept.of State
What, within this scope, would indicate a need for the Dept. of State to buy data on American citizens? I can understand about the Justice Dept. and Dept. of Homeland Security; they have an internal focus. However, in all three cases, I am still not clear why they appear to be purchasing and using data without some kind of disclosure taking place.



I suggest that you hold off on the knee-jerk "The gov't bought a database!" reactions until you know a bit more about the topic.

I'd still like to know why this is a "knee-jerk" reaction. And, I'd like you to specifically fill me in on what "I don't know", because after all, I am asking questions.




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