A recent study from Duke University, reported by NBC News, has exposed a troubling trend: Data brokers are actively selling the personal information of U.S. service members. The sales occur at shockingly low prices, raising major national security concerns. Consequently, U.S. senators are urgently calling for regulatory action.
The study’s researchers managed to acquire nearly 50,000 records of service members for just over $10,000, with individual data sometimes costing as little as 12 cents. The data included not only basic contact information but also sensitive details like children’s names, marital status, net worth, and credit scores.
Senators demand action
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have expressed grave concerns over these findings. Cassidy emphasized the urgent need to protect those who defend the nation, while Wyden described the situation as a “sobering wake-up call” indicating that the data broker industry is spiraling out of control.
A policy gap in privacy regulation
Justin Sherman, a fellow at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, has noted a significant oversight in privacy regulation discussions. They often miss the national security angle. Moreover, the study discovered over 500 websites that market information on service members. Some even offer data pinpointing military personnel’s locations, which could reveal their stations.
The ready availability of this data creates a clear risk to U.S. security. Foreign spies could use it to target Americans with access to sensitive information. Jeff Asher, a former CIA officer, highlighted the dangers of such information being readily available to potential adversaries.
International comparisons and U.S. legislation
While the European Union enforces stringent data privacy regulations, the U.S. has struggled to pass a comprehensive data privacy law. Current U.S. regulations only cover specific sectors like medical data and children’s information, leaving a significant gap in the protection of service members’ data.
A call for urgent regulation
The study’s findings have sparked a heated debate on data privacy and national security. With U.S. intelligence agencies also buying commercially available information, the push for oversight and regulation has become critical. Senators and policymakers are now wrestling with how to protect U.S. service members and ensure national security.