US NSA confirms it buys personal online data without a warrant

Illustration of a spying CPU inside a computer with the NSA logo on it.
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

US National Security Agency (NSA) director Paul Nakasone has confirmed that the agency purchases personal data from web brokers without a warrant.

In a letter to Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, the agency’s director stated that the data collected by the NSA, “may include information associated with electronic devices being used outside - and, in certain cases, inside - the United States."

Senator Wyden, who is an advocate of internet freedom and the right to privacy, stated that, "such records can identify Americans who are seeking help from a suicide hotline or a hotline for survivors of sexual assault or domestic abuse."

Calls for data regulation at the highest level

Senator Wyden argues that the use of personal information without consent and knowledge is illegal and that the NSA should submit all of its collected data on individuals to a database, so that the agency adheres to the same standards imposed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on other organizations. Data that does not fall within these standards would then be purged from use.

Wyden recently stopped incoming NSA director Timothy Haugh from serving as director, prompting the NSA to confirm the purchase of personal data. Wyden had been seeking this confirmation for almost three years in his battle to ensure that the personal data of American citizens remains personal. 

Wyden is a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee which provides oversight on the activities of US intelligence agencies. The Defense Intelligence Agency also previously confirmed its purchase and use of personal data collected from the phones of Americans in 2021.

The NSA responded to Wyden in an email explaining that the agency passes individual data through “technical filters” at all stages of the collection process, and the data they do gather is used for national and cybersecurity purposes.

Via Reuters

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Benedict Collins
Staff Writer (Security)

Benedict Collins is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Pro covering privacy and security. Before settling into journalism he worked as a Livestream Production Manager, covering games in the National Ice Hockey League for 5 years and contributing heavily to the advancement of livestreaming within the league. Benedict is mainly focused on security issues such as phishing, malware, and cyber criminal activity, but he also likes to draw on his knowledge of geopolitics and international relations to understand the motives and consequences of state-sponsored cyber attacks.

He has a MA in Security, Intelligence and Diplomacy, alongside a BA in Politics with Journalism, both from the University of Buckingham. His masters dissertation, titled 'Arms sales as a foreign policy tool,' argues that the export of weapon systems has been an integral part of the diplomatic toolkit used by the US, Russia and China since 1945. Benedict has also written about NATO's role in the era of hybrid warfare, the influence of interest groups on US foreign policy, and how reputational insecurity can contribute to the misuse of intelligence.

Outside of work Ben follows many sports; most notably ice hockey and rugby. When not running or climbing, Ben can most often be found deep in the shrubbery of a pub garden.