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FBI finally admits to buying location data on Americans, horrifying experts

Enlarge / FBI Director Christopher Wray, left, and National Security Agency Director Gen. Paul Nakasone, testify during the Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats on Wednesday, March 8, 2023. (credit: Tom Williams / Contributor | CQ-Roll Call, Inc.)

At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing yesterday, FBI Director Christopher Wray confirmed for the first time that the agency has in the past purchased the location data of US citizens without obtaining a warrant, Wired reported.

This revelation, which has alarmed privacy advocates, came after Sen. Ron Wyden (D–Ore.) asked Wray directly, “Does the FBI purchase US phone-geolocation information?” Wray’s response tiptoed around the question but provided a rare insight into how the FBI has used location data to surveil Americans without any court oversight.

“To my knowledge, we do not currently purchase commercial database information that includes location data derived from Internet advertising,” Wray said. “I understand that we previously—as in the past—purchased some such information for a specific national security pilot project. But that’s not been active for some time.”

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