Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate whether a tech company’s sale of Americans’ data to taxpayer-funded organizations violates privacy laws.
In his letter, Wyden asked the agency to investigate whether Neustar, a technology company, violated privacy rights when it sold sensitive consumer information to a Defense Department-funded research project at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
“For several years, Neustar knowingly sold sensitive Internet metadata that it believed to have obtained from unwitting consumers,” the letter said.
Wyden said some consumers may have been told their information was not going to be shared with third parties.
“Noistar did not take sufficient steps to warn consumers that it no longer intended to honor those promises and, as such, appears to have engaged in business practices substantially similar to those that the FTC previously alleged violated the FTC Act.” , – She said:
Neustar did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment.
The email cited a Wall Street Journal investigation showing the tech company began selling data to the Georgia Tech team in 2016 in a contract worth about $2 million.
Wyden said Neustar initially refused to answer questions about its data sales, but in September the company announced it was no longer selling such data.
The letter also states that according to emails received from the Georgia Tech team, the data was also shared with US federal agencies.
“The emails include several communications between the researchers who bought the data and the FBI and DOJ, indicating that government officials asked the researchers to make specific requests and that the researchers wrote affidavits and reports to the government describing their findings,” the letter said. , adding that the Justice Department’s requests appear to have been made without authorization.
Wyden said the DOJ has not released more information despite repeated requests from his office.
The letter also cited recent court testimony suggesting that former Neustar executive Rodney Joffe was also involved in selling data to the US government.
“If this data came from Neustar customers, it appears that Neustar failed to adequately warn consumers about the sale of their browsing data and may have been defrauded by a material omission,” Wyden said.
“This potentially deceptive practice led to the subsequent sharing of Americans’ data with US government agencies, apparently without a warrant,” he added.