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Using Fourth-Party Data Brokers To Bypass the Fourth Amendment 181

An anonymous reader writes "Coming out of Columbia Law School is an article about commercial data brokers and their ability to provide information about individuals to the US government despite Fourth Amendment or statutory protections (abstract, full PDF at Download link). Quoting: 'The Supreme Court has held that the Fourth Amendment does not protect information that has been voluntarily disclosed to a third-party or obtained by means of a private search. Congress reacted to these holdings by creating a patchwork of statutes designed to prevent the government's direct and unfettered access to documents stored with third-parties; thus, the government's access is fettered by various statutory requirements, including, in many cases, notice of the disclosure. Despite these protections, however, third-parties are not restricted from passing the same data to other private companies (fourth-parties), and after the events of September 11, 2001, the government, believing that it needed a greater scope of surveillance, turned to the fourth-parties to access the personal information it could not acquire on its own. As a consequence, the fourth-parties, unrestricted by Fourth Amendment or statutory concerns, delivered — and continue to deliver — personal data en masse to the government.'"
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Using Fourth-Party Data Brokers To Bypass the Fourth Amendment

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  • Sharing vs taking. (Score:4, Informative)

    by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:26AM (#30619440)

    Why does the US have this fetish with keeping the government out of their private lives, yet allow corporations free reign to use, misuse, misplace and basically be asses with the same information?

    At the most basic, it is a difference between voluntarily sharing the information versus involuntarily having it collected.

    Corporations compile the information about your purchases and such in order to persuade you to purchase their products.

    Governments compile the information about you in order to limit your freedom.

  • Re:Query (Score:3, Informative)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:53AM (#30619566)
    "wouldn't a judge have to throw out such evidence as its method of gathering is a clear end-run around the Constitution?"

    In theory, sure, the courts would have to uphold our constitutional rights. In practice, the courts ruled that the government can use information collected by corporations, and congress created laws to prevent that behavior (a rare display of backbone). The courts also ruled that email stored on a third party system is not subject to 4th amendment protections.
  • by zippyspringboard ( 1483595 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @02:44AM (#30620116)
    It's not actually free unless EVERYONE has access to it. If my personal information is being SOLD that seems to indicate it's not very free. And furthermore, I suspect that the Govt and The Corporations involved are working very hard to keep much of their personal information from escaping and becoming free.
  • Ghandi, eh? (Score:3, Informative)

    by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @05:26AM (#30620792) Homepage Journal
    "A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can be taken without warrants, have their property seized, be securely imprisoned, not be given access to lawyers, or even a phone call, get waterboarded, give up all their co-conspirators, and disappear forever." --fyngyrz
  • Data Protection Act (Score:2, Informative)

    by keean ( 824435 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @05:49AM (#30620880)

    The UK has the Data Protection Act to prevent this kind of thing. Companies storing personal data must officially register, and must not share the data without the person concerned giving permission. You have the right to see a copy of any data held about you on payment of a small fee (to cover administrative costs). The law even prevents govenment departments from sharing data.

    However, a recent amendment was passed that allows a minister (the Home Secretary I believe) to grant exemptions to this, and to compel disclosure from third parties - this was under the pretense of counter terrorism, but no safeguards were built into the procedures, so the exemptions could be used for political purposes.

The shortest distance between two points is under construction. -- Noelie Alito