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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