Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Pentagon Surveilling Americans Without a Warrant, Senator Reveals

Joseph Cox, Vice:

The Pentagon is carrying out warrantless surveillance of Americans, according to a new letter written by Senator Ron Wyden and obtained by Motherboard.

Senator Wyden’s office asked the Department of Defense (DoD), which includes various military and intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), for detailed information about its data purchasing practices after Motherboard revealed special forces were buying location data. The responses also touched on military or intelligence use of internet browsing and other types of data, and prompted Wyden to demand more answers specifically about warrantless spying on American citizens.

This covers a line of thinking that I have never quite wrapped my head around. There would be a mass revolt in the United States — and in many countries, sure, but this is about the U.S. — if people were strongly encouraged to carry around a literal surveillance device that reported the user’s actions directly to the military. What I do not understand is how it is somehow more okay among certain schools of thought if that device is made by a private company, the entire surveillance apparatus is privately owned, and any of those private companies can share or resell the data they collect to any interested party — including the military.

I am not saying I would rather live in a world of constant government surveillance. But, in some twisted sense, it may be preferable: at least there are laws stating what is and what is not permissible. Those laws may frequently be broken, but they at least exist. What laws govern the collection and sale of behavioural data by an ad network? In the U.S., there are very few, and none at the national level.