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People who profit by selling your personal information to the NSA

People who profit by selling your personal information to the NSA
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

I'm sure you've been watching the fallout of Edward Snowden's leaks regarding how much information the National Security Agency is allowed to use from millions of Americans. An angle that no one has considered, however, is probably the fact that third parties, that is private companies, deal with more of your personal info than we ever expected.

Third-party companies have been turning a tidy profit by serving the government's subpoenas, search warrants, demanding customer's data from ISPs and sharing court orders with ISPs.

Companies like Neustar act as a "trusted third party" which uses the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act to force any "communication provider" to share any subscriber's personal information at the government's behest.

If you were to take a look at Neustar's website, it would look like your run-of-the-mill digital marketing company. What you wouldn't see on the company's front page is their "fiduciary" services.

Neustar, along with many other companies, make a large part of their income from acting as an NSA spy's tech support service. The people who provided Neustar's "fiduciary" services were, for all intents and purposes, given the same security clearance given to the NSA spies.

Want to know something even weirder than a third-party company using your personal info? Neustar's policies are based mostly around whether or not a phone company was willing to give up its customers' personal information. In an interview, a former Neustar staffer explains:

"Every action Neustar took as an outsourced partner was really governed by the carriers' policies and procedures," the former Neustar executive explained. If an ISP or phone company was particularly conscious of its customers' civil liberties, Neustar can adopt strict guidelines to meet those criteria.

So basically Neustar and other third-party NSA data marketers serve warrants according to how flimsily an ISP or cell carrier treats its customers' personal information.

The best way to keep your information safe is to side with the cable and mobile companies that fight for their customers' privacy.

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