Congress must pass the Jacobs-Davidson Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the yearly funding bill for national security and the military. It would require the Department of Defense to disclose, both to Congress and the public, information about when it purchases geolocation data collected by cell phones or digital communications and internet metadata on internet usage.
This important amendment would bring more transparency to a glaring and growing privacy problem. The applications people download onto their smartphones often collect geolocation data for the purpose of selling to marketing companies, advertisers, and others. With all of this very personal data sitting on an open market, the government has been an increasingly voracious customer. Law enforcement or intelligence agencies would normally have to go to a judge and get a warrant to acquire this information. Purchasing it on the open market has become an unconstitutional way that the government has tried to get around warrant requirements.
Unfortunately, there are insufficient statutes regulating who can collect and sell this information and for what purpose. This is how U.S. military contractors ended up buying the location data of people who used a prayer app specifically for Muslim users.
We urge Congress to approve this amendment to the NDAA. Transparency is necessary for us to learn how widespread this invasive practice has become.