Tags: NSA/Surveillance | fbi | data | tech companies | national security

Documents Show FBI Uses 'Secret Subpoenas' for Personal Data

FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.
FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 20 September 2019 09:57 AM

The FBI has issued "secret subpoenas" known as national security letters to gain personal data from a wide range of companies, according to documents shared with The New York Times.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation obtained the records of about 750 secret subpoenas following a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, though this is only a fraction of the hundreds of thousands issued since the passing of the Patriot Act in 2001. The documents show that fewer than 20 different entities, mostly tech companies, have admitted to receiving a national security letter, while more than 120 were included in the filing.

"This is a pretty potent authority for the government," said Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor with a specialization in national security. "The question is: Do we have a right to know when the government is collecting information on us?"

The Times notes that the FBI can obtain a variety of data from these letters, including usernames and locations, IP addresses, and purchase records. Financial institutions, credit agencies, and major cellular service providers have all received letters, as have some of the biggest companies in the tech industry, including Google and Facebook.

The documents show that the FBI evaluated almost 12,000 orders from early 2016 to September 2017, which is when the EFF requested the information.

"We are not sure the FBI is taking its obligations under USA Freedom seriously," said Andrew Crocker, one of the foundation's attorneys. "There still is a huge problem with permanent gag orders."

The Justice Department declined to comment to the Times.

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The FBI has issued "secret subpoenas" known as national security letters to gain personal data from a wide range of companies, according to documents shared with The New York Times.
fbi, data, tech companies, national security
259
2019-57-20
Friday, 20 September 2019 09:57 AM
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