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Understanding Digital Dragnets: Surveillance in the Age of Smartphones
14th September 2022 • The Sunday Show • Tech Policy Press
00:00:00 00:34:15

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In this episode of the Tech Policy Press podcast, we’re going to explore how law enforcement and other government agencies in the United States acquire data drawn from commercial data brokers for investigative purposes, and the questions raised by these practices.

This is an issue that is still at question in the nation’s courts and is under active discussion on Capitol Hill. For instance, this summer the House Judiciary Committee hosted a hearing it titled Digital Dragnets: Examining the Government's Access to Your Personal Data. At the hearing, experts witnesses testified that government agencies at all levels, including federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Department of Defense (DOD), as well as state and local law enforcement are collecting a massive amount of personal data on American citizens, sidestepping constitutional protections against unwarranted search and seizure provided in the Fourth Amendment. The hearing included discussion of the proposed Fourth Amendment is Not For Sale Act, which would restrict government entities from engaging in such practices.

But while the courts and Congress deliberate, government agencies are acquiring this information from software providers, including one such firm that was the subject of a recent investigative report from the Associated Press titled Tech tool offers police ‘mass surveillance on a budget. Today, I’m joined by the two reporters who spent months trying to understand how a little known company in Virginia goes about acquiring commercially available data and selling it to police in departments across the country- global investigative journalist Garance Burke and national investigative reporter Jason Dearen.