Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Illegal spying on Americans is not always high tech

Sometimes it is simply illegal, in the classic sense. The AP reports how your tax dollars are being spent to spy on yo and your family, your neighbors and co-workers. From the AP.
Federal and local police across the country - as well as some of the nation's best-known companies - have been gathering Americans' phone records from private data brokers without subpoenas or warrants.

These brokers, many of whom market aggressively on the Internet, have broken into customer accounts online, tricked phone companies into revealing information and sometimes acknowledged that their practices violate laws, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Legal experts and privacy advocates said police reliance on private vendors who commit such acts raises civil liberties questions.

Those using data brokers include agencies of the Homeland Security and Justice departments - including the FBI and U.S. Marshal's Service - and municipal police departments in California, Florida, Georgia and Utah. Experts believe hundreds of other departments frequently use such services.
And here are a few examples of what can be bought, by the government or anyone else with the money and the curiosity.
-A U.S. Labor Department employee who used her government e-mail address and phone number to buy two months of personal cellular phone records of a woman in New Jersey.

-A buyer who received credit card information about the father of murder victim Jon Benet Ramsey.

-A buyer who obtained 20 printed pages of phone calls by pro basketball player Damon Jones of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
And the worst part of this debacle is that the law provides no clear protection or relief from these activities.

John at AmericaBlog has been covering this for some time now. Give him a visit for the straight skinny.


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