Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Lawmakers To Crack Down On Data Brokers

It appears that the NSA has been gathering information about Americans on the black market. Since they're already on the "black" side of government, invisible (supposedly), this may be a simple matter of color coordination.

On the other hand, it may be yet one more example of our government becoming active in that world beyond the law, a world where things aren't quite illegal but certainly would be if anybody knew about them.

And it sounds like legislators have found out about the NSA's bottom feeding and do intend to make it illegal.

Bully for them. Government must obey the law. Bring it to heel.


Lawmakers to crack down on data brokers - Yahoo! News: "Lawmakers to crack down on data brokers

By TED BRIDIS, Associated Press Writer 8 minutes ago

"WASHINGTON - Lawmakers promised on Wednesday to end shady practices by private data brokers who gather Americans' telephone records without subpoenas or warrants on behalf of banks, bail bondsmen and, sometimes, federal and local police.

These brokers, many of whom market aggressively on the Internet, have tricked telephone carriers into disclosing private customer information and broken into online accounts, in some cases guessing passwords that were the names of pets, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press."


The article goes on to describe a private eye acquiring data that he could not legally get in his day job as a police chief...

" 'She has two pets, one named Rainbow and the other is Max,' wrote a private detective, Donnie Tidmore of Waco, Texas, in September in an e-mail to a data broker, PDJ Investigations of Granbury, Texas.

Tidmore, who also is police chief in nearby Crawford, Texas, where President Bush owns his ranch, wanted lists of cellular calls and the Social Security number of a Virgin Mobile USA subscriber for a case. Tidmore works on the side as a private eye.

Tidmore told the AP on Wednesday the data brokers he used obtained information about targets through legal means. He acknowledged he has no idea how PDJ could obtain another person's phone records lawfully without a subpoena or warrant. Tidmore agreed that, in his capacity as police chief, he would have needed a subpoena or warrant to obtain a citizen's phone records.

PDJ's owner, Patrick Baird, was among 11 people identified as data brokers who refused to testify Wednesday at a congressional hearing. They invoked their Fifth Amendment rights not to incriminate themselves.

'This is a crime and we need to put a stop to it,' said Rep. John D. Dingell (news, bio, voting record), D-Mich., the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee."

...

Although the data brokers invoked their Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate themselves, their personal information and business plans are probably available for the right fee. On the black market.

The question is implied: should the NSA be permitted to acquire stolen data about Americans?

In another news story today, the NSA is reported to be spying on Internet traffic. Think before you click. "Do I want the government to know I'm looking for this?"

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