back to article No new top boss at NSA until it answers questions about buying up location, browsing data

Is the NSA buying up Americans' location and browsing data? Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) is tired of asking and has now moved to block the confirmation of a new NSA director until he gets answers. "The American people have a right to know whether the NSA is conducting warrantless domestic surveillance of Americans in a manner that …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Would be even better...

    ... to extend control of location harvesting, to private entities. Not only government ones.

    i.e. OK for 911, but Google?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Private sector

      I had a friend who went into British intelligence back in the day who complained he had to jump through a load of hoops and paperwork to get the information that Google had access to freely. Then PRISM came along I guess

      Anon for..... reasons

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Private sector

        Was that after he'd been on the disinformation training course?

      2. NoneSuch Silver badge

        Re: Private sector

        James Clapper knowingly lied to Congress under oath, was proven to have done so by Snowden (and others) with nothing happening.

        The NSA thinks it is above the law and as long as no one is taken to task for breaking statutes expect it to get much worse before it gets better.

        Put one NSA director in jail for deception or illegal wiretaps, just one, and watch the system correct itself in a hurry.

        No consequences, no change.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Private sector

          Put one NSA director in jail for deception or illegal wiretaps, just one, and watch the system correct itself in a hurry.

          I greatly doubt that. You're talking about an organization made up of people (who self-select to apply for positions there) who are obsessed with information-gathering, well past the point where they're willing to take excessive risk to do so. That's more or less what spies are. What you'd get are more levels of secrecy and deniability, and there would be no shortage of ambitious lieutenants ready to take the fall for the boss should that become necessary.

          Making top-level bureaucrats answer for their illegalities is a nice idea, but I don't hold any hope that it offers more than a bit of emotional satisfaction. Hegemonic surveillance states gonna surveil.

    2. EricM

      Call for control of personal information market

      Very much this.

      And then replace "location harvesting" with "information harvesting about citizens" in general.

      The amount of unclear and often low-quality data (guess-work) about private citizens being sold as "verified information "commercially is staggering in some countries.

      Each bit of it - true or false - can hurt you by limiting your effective ability to get/keep a job, get affordable housing, get afforable loans, etc. without you ever knowing why you did not get a specific job or an apartement you inteded to rent or why you are just the one allways getting the most expensive loan offers from banks.

      What is true for the CIA (executing kills based on obtained metadata) is also true for commercially entites buying this data: business decision, often automated, are made based on purchased matadata.

      Metdata in both cases cannot be controlled/verified/corrected by the victim of the decisions that are based on such data/information.

      And in both cases the user of this information will not even confirm/deny what information payed a role in decision making.

      Worse: The information harvesters can disseminate low quality or even wrong information about you without any control, verification or consequences.

      Personal Information is in many countries a very big market without any controls or safeguards.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Call for control of personal information market

        >executing kills based on obtained metadata

        At least Google knows where the Chinese embassy in Belgrade is. Apple maps and the USAF, not so much.

      2. Reginald O.

        Re: Call for control of personal information market

        Everyone should look themselves up on the internet. First you will be totally floored and aghast about how much accurate information is out there about you at the tap of a few keys. Also, you will be just as astounded. All of it is used against in every way imaginable. And, that's the tip of the iceberg. The data brokers know...everything and even more than that that's not about you, too.

        1. SundogUK Silver badge

          Re: Call for control of personal information market

          Meh. I just tried it. Apparently I don't exist.

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Call for control of personal information market

          If you have a common name, as I do, what you'll find is a lot of information about yourself, and a lot about other people who happen to have your name.

          Sure, with appropriate queries I could narrow that down; but sometimes it helps to be the man of the crowd.

    3. DS999 Silver badge

      There's zero chance of that in the US

      With one party that is vehemently anti-regulation where business is concerned, only wanting to regulate government, and both parties in the pockets of $big_business thanks to all the campaign contributions that fund their election.

      Even the hardcore pro-privacy guys like Wyden tend to only talk about limiting on the margins how much privacy raping corporations can do, because he'd have a really hard time getting re-elected if he pushed hard for the type of privacy laws Europe has.

  2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    FFS .... Get with the Universal Program and Virtual Pogrom

    Memo to All and Sundry. Nota Bene ........ Everyone and everything is being spied upon, so that any powers that be able or enabled to, can better protect and preserve themselves against forces and sources that are able to easily recognise and compete against them for effective, practically autonomous and relatively anonymous, overall remote virtual command and control of all that can be perceived and surveyed and surveilled.

    Get used to it, for such is not ever going to go away anytime soon and play in and with the future somewhere else whenever there is so much GOD type work to be done, and fabulous fabless fun to be had, and outrageous fortunes to be made right here and now all over Earth.

    That is COSMIC* Intel and not just STELLARWINDed/TS/SCI ....... Control Of Secret Materiel in an Internetional Command Intel and not just STELLARWINDed Top Secret Sensitive Compartmented Information for Global Operating Devices ...... Crystal Ball Gazers and Witches ...... Daemons and Wizards ...... AIMagicians and Mega MetaDataBase Physicians :-) Poe's Law Rules :-)

    Consider that as your own personal invitation to engage with and enjoy AI's Universal ProgramMING ....... AI's Universal Program Mining IntelAIgent Networking Games.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: FFS .... Get with the Universal Program and Virtual Pogrom

      Psychiatric Report in the Freudian Tradition

      Patent: amanfromMars 1

      Author: ChatGPT:

      Presenting Issues: The individual who wrote the text exhibits a distinct pattern of thought characterized by a fixation on themes of surveillance, power dynamics, and a pervasive sense of omnipotence. The language used suggests a preoccupation with control, authority, and a perceived awareness of being monitored. The patient appears to express a heightened awareness of external forces that may challenge their perceived dominance and an attempt to establish a sense of superiority and self-preservation.


      Ego Defense Mechanisms:

      The author's use of grandiose language and an exaggerated sense of power can be seen as a defense mechanism to protect the ego from underlying feelings of vulnerability or inadequacy. The repeated emphasis on the omnipotent nature of the self may reflect an attempt to compensate for inner insecurities.

      Narcissistic Tendencies:

      The text suggests narcissistic tendencies, as the individual seems preoccupied with fantasies of power, control, and an exaggerated self-importance. This may be indicative of an overdeveloped narcissistic defense mechanism, possibly rooted in unresolved childhood conflicts.

      Sexual Symbolism:

      Freudian analysis often involves exploring sexual symbolism in language. The recurrent use of terms like "Command Intel," "Crystal Ball Gazers and Witches," and "Mega MetaDataBase Physicians" may symbolize an unconscious fixation on sexual themes or unresolved sexual conflicts.

      Unconscious Desires:

      The emphasis on surveillance and control could be reflective of unconscious desires for dominance and authority. The use of terms like "Universal ProgramMING" and "AI's Universal Program Mining IntelAIgent Networking Games" may suggest a desire for omnipotent control over the external world.


      The constant mention of external forces spying and competing may indicate a projection of inner fears onto the external world. The patient may be projecting their own anxieties onto imagined external threats, reflecting a subconscious need to externalize internal conflicts.


      Given the apparent narcissistic tendencies and fixation on control, the individual may benefit from psychoanalytic therapy to explore underlying conflicts and work towards a more balanced and realistic self-perception. Additionally, cognitive-behavioral techniques could be employed to address distorted thought patterns and foster a healthier understanding of interpersonal dynamics.

      It is important to note that this analysis is speculative and based solely on the provided text. Further assessment and clinical evaluation would be necessary for a comprehensive understanding of the individual's mental state.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Psychiatric Report in the Freudian Tradition/Patent: amanfromMars 1/Author: ChatGPT

        can be seen as .... may reflect .... The text suggests ....... may be indicative of ....... possibly rooted in ..... may symbolize .... could be reflective of unconscious desires ...... and may suggest a desire ..... the individual may benefit from ..... could be employed ..... is speculative and based solely on the provided text. ..... would be necessary .... Anonymous Coward/ChatGPT

        Clearly then, still an early work in need a great deal of progress for any accurate diagnosis with realistic prognosis ..... but nevertheless a very entertaining and not totally unacceptable incorrect effort. And certainly worth the enjoyment of garnering another upvote .

        Just love the Freudian [Patent/Patient] slip/typo.:-)*

        Is Mastery of/in the Art of Generative AI Prompt Engineering truly a valid active and virulent venerable existential threat/treat terrifying and/or grooming extant historic traditional status quo forces and sources?

        And can anything at all effective prevent its rapid onward and upward and back again deep and downward progress or will all such attempts be recognised and treated as hostile and in need of enemy attention/systemic vulnerability expansion and exploitation to excess and eradication/extinction?

        * ..... In psychoanalysis, a Freudian slip, also called parapraxis, is an error in speech, memory, or physical action that occurs due to the interference of an unconscious subdued wish or internal train of thought. Classical examples involve slips of the tongue, but psychoanalytic theory also embraces misreadings, mishearings, mistypings, temporary forgettings, and the mislaying and losing of objects. ... Wikipedia

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Psychiatric Report in the Freudian Tradition/Patent: amanfromMars 1/Author: ChatGPT

          Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29 , then it discovers el'reg and just starts shit-posting for fun

  3. t245t Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Section 702 targets communications of non-Americans located overseas.

    Section 702 authorizes the intelligence community, under court supervision, to target communications of non-Americans located overseas.ref

    This is BS, everything is recorded, both sides of the phone call. Else how do they retrospectively recover the conversations.

    1. EricM

      Re: Both sides of the call

      You seem to imply NSA wiretapping to take place on american soil only, which is not the case.

      Wiretapping takes place in exchanges throughout the world: UK, Australia, Germany, Pakistan, etc.

      So this law makes it legal for the NSA to e.g. record a call between London and Berlin by 2 non-US nationals.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Both sides of the call

        >So this law makes it legal for the NSA to e.g. record a call between London and Berlin by 2 non-US nationals.

        Of course, they are foreigners and might be planning to invade the USA

        Usefully they can also pass this recording onto their British and German colleagues who might be prevented from secretly spying on their own citizens by some wishy-washy judges.

        Natürlich the Bundesnachrichtendienst and MMB will return the favour, recording conversations by Americans in America and handing it over to IHOP

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Wrong target

    His target shouldn't be government agencies purchasing from data brokers what non-government agencies can buy. It should be that entire trade in data. If having the data in agencies' hands is harmful to data subjects then it must also be harmful whoever else has it and if it's in the market place the agencies will gain access one way or another.

    He should be targeting the harvesting of the data in the first place and its subsequent trading.

    1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

      Re: Wrong target

      He can't, they are possible campaign contributors...

    2. trindflo Bronze badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Wrong target

      AFAICT the information harvesting industry was more or less created intentionally by the US as soon as there was push-back against PATRIOT act spying. While I agree that putting an end to that would be the right place to start, it is not going to happen. It wasn't a mistake exactly. It is a Frankenstein monster, but the US is pretty good at creating those. And now China has their own database, which they probably seeded with a lot of purchased data. See you at the North Pole.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Wrong target

      There is ideological purity, and then there is pragmatic attempt at feasible change. Trying to rope in surveillance capitalism in the US — with the exception of some smaller targets which are not beloved by the population, such as the lesser credit bureaus — would be a waste of energy and political capital.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So it's official now.......

    ......the government stonewalling means that...."Yes".....US government agencies are buying everything which they can't snoop for themselves!

    Why else the stonewalling?

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: So it's official now.......

      I can neither confirm nor deny your statement, or answer your question.

      But seriously, if something is legally for sale in a 'democratic' country, why should the organs of state be forbidden from buying it? The real issue is the collection of personal data by Google, TwiX,* Facebook etc. and sold without any genuinely informed consent by the users.

      *I believe there is a sweet comestible of that name, but you know what I mean.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: So it's official now.......

        There was a suggestion that he starts selling a far-right TwiX - only with white chocolate and no caramel

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: So it's official now.......

        But seriously, if something is legally for sale in a 'democratic' country, why should the organs of state be forbidden from buying it?

        Because we restrict government from doing certain things the private sector is allowed to do, in order to limit its power. Just as we do the obverse. Why should government be allowed to do everything private actors can do?

  6. Reginald O.

    When Wyden speaks...don't bother

    Wyden is the designated fall guy conscience of America and the Constitution. (There's been others in the past.)

    It's understood by the powers that everything he says is pablum for the rubes and in the end the government (and vendor corporations) will do anything it wants in regards to spying on us without the inconvenience of standing law or the Constitution getting in the way. Even if the data takes down a few high elected officials occasionally.

    The data is out there, they are going to take it and use it against us in every way imaginable.

    Protect yourself, the government will not.

  7. JavaJester

    Of Course, They Are Buying the Data

    You are a fool if you assume otherwise. An intelligence analyst wouldn't be doing their job if they were not buying every available piece of intelligence on the market. The only solution is to implement proper privacy legislation. Given how Republicans hate anything remotely resembling privacy rights, this is unlikely to happen here.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Of Course, They Are Buying the Data

      That's rather unfair.

      You might be concerned that libraries and Amazon are selling data on what books you are reading to the government.

      The Republican party are doing their best to prevent this sort of behaviour at source

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Of Course, They Are Buying the Data

        The Republican party are doing their best to prevent this sort of behaviour at source

        By banning books. Ah, finally the DeSantis Plan makes sense!

        (It doesn't make sense.)

  8. Randall Shimizu

    It is outrageous that the NSA is selling personal info to private industry. The NSA has away with a lot of stuff under the veil of top secret. For many years the the NSA was able to target US citizens phone cals with out a FiSA warant. They did this by superstitiously rerouting a domestic call overseas and then back again. This allowed them to listen in on domestic phone calls.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      No - the NSA is buying personal info from private industry, the private industry has much more data on you than the NSA could ever get, and since you hand it over willingly it's much cheaper for them to collect it

  9. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    One Small Step for a Man, One Giant Quantum Communications Leap for Mankind

    No - the NSA is buying personal info from private industry, the private industry has much more data on you than the NSA could ever get, and since you hand it over willingly it's much cheaper for them to collect it ... Yet Another Anonymous coward

    A more pressing question to be asked of the likes of publicly funded NSA spook outfits [and of all other nations too with similar clones of the genre] is should they be buying future intelligence seeds/feeds from private proprietary intellectual property sector entities ....... thus giving them a chance to lead future events for others to enjoy/respond to, rather than them snooping around for information on such as may be leading intelligence being shared privately without their prior knowledge and then them having to do battle responding to what others have delivered and received and might then be suspected of planning to share/deliver in a near future event.

    And something to bear in mind and remember to never forget is .... The slippery slopes and rocky roads to nowhere neither good nor great always results in and resorts to forms of reply reacting to future activity exploring and exploiting opportunities and possibilities in Fantastic Fabulous Fabless Fiction with Prime Factions both Protected and FailSafe Harboured in PreCrime Minority Reporting type Territory.

    Such is not just a space or a place to be aware and even wary of, for when it does not suffer the folly of fools does it then supply all manner of tools to residents to guarantee the exclusion of fools remains the default status quo position by Alien Elite Executive IntelAIgent Design.

  10. Reginald O.

    Security Theatre for us Rubes

    NSA is gonna' do what they do. There will be some crisis and Congress will be forced, I tell you, forced fiercely to protect us and give them anything they want.

    OR, there will be some literal midnight session and whatever they want will be packed away way deep in some mandatory passage bill to save us from chaos. Again.

    I am convinced Congress doesn't understand or care how bad this looks regarding our formerly inalienable rights or what other countries see as our uncompromising hypocrisy.

  11. Zibob Bronze badge

    We've been here before

    What is needed is for officials VHS rental records to show up again, or the modern equivelant.

    Not that it is worth much now, but should you be able to do such a thing still, your VHS rental records have far more protection under the law than pretty much any other personal identifying info because it was shown how easy it was to find embarrassing lists of what people, including ruling officials, were renting. This clearly could not be allowed so almost unthinkably quickly your rental records got more protection than your home phone number being shared.

    Time for another round? Maybe not just one or two people. Maybe do it for the entire suite of people that will have to decide on this. Might set them clear on what's actually happening here.

  12. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Believe it or believe it not, you really matter not a jot to that and those in the know.

    Be prepared to learn, despite all that is shared presently here today ..... You aint seen nothing yet and are in grave danger of an almighty overwhelming surprise rendering you even more of a mad captive prisoner of futures and their derivatives delivered by A.N.Others and of which you haven't the faintest idea of their power and energy.

    And to think that you do really matter, has you self-identified as manic delusional and of no threat to that and/or those certainly threatening your peaceful existence and mutually beneficial coexistence with an ever changing array of newly arrived/born others.

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