The National Security Agency (N.S.A.) has started to come clean about tracking Americans cell phone data and what data was being collected. NSA admits to tracking the cell phone location of Americans in a test pilot project in 2010 and 2011.
According to the New York Times, “it was unclear how many Americans’ locational data was collected as part of the project, whether the agency has held on to that information or why the program did not go forward.”
NSA claimed that they never moved forward with the program. The “experiment” pilot project was to test how location information would move into the massive databases containing other information on Americans. Cell phone location is considered to be one of the most sensitive data that a cell phone emits, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Since most people carry their cell phones everywhere they go it is possible that the location data tracking could lead to the government knowing most intimate daily habits and movements of not only the person whose phone is being tracked but friends and family members whom the person had come into contact with throughout the day.
The biggest problem with NSA’s admission of the test pilot program is that it admitted to doing an illegal activity. NSA’s chief Keith Alexander said during a Senate hearing, “Under Section 215, NSA is not receiving cell site location data and has no current plans to do so.” The recent admission of past collection clearly violated Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
In order to counter-act negative reaction to the admission, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper told Congress that if they started their location recollection program they would inform the intelligence committee and FISA court. That means that Americans could still be kept in the dark if the program, a clear violation of the Patriot Act and one that brings up Fourth Amendment issues, were to become restarted.
I feel safer already, don’t you?