Law enforcement agencies including the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Justice Department, the U.S. Marshal's Service, and local police in various states have been using data brokers to obtain detailed personal phone records, credit histories, and other information on their suspects. The records are often obtained much faster and more easily than using the standard subpoena and warrant process - often taking hours rather than days or weeks. While the data brokers normally charge customers for the information, it is believe that law enforcement agencies are rarely charged for this service.
It is being reported that some of the information sold by brokers was obtained illegally, but this fact is not likely being conveyed to law enforcement using the information, and officials appear to be undeterred. U.S. Republican Ed Whitfield, head of the House Energy and Commerce investigation subcommittee, was quoted by the AP as saying, "...[the data brokers] will impersonate and use everything available that they have to convince the person who has the information to share it with them, and it's shocking how successful they are."
The report brings new light the extent to which law enforcement and government agencies will go to obtain private information on ordinary Americans. Despite widespread reports of massive domestic spying by the NSA and other agencies, local and state officials appear to be ready to use almost any means possible to obtain private records about suspects under investigation.
Posted by: Kelly Martin