A recent declassified document from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) spotlights worrying implications that the extensive data accessible to the intelligence community could be exploited, thereby challenging constitutional safeguards.
The report, assembled by DNI Avril Haines, centers on "commercially available information (CAI)," or data open to the public, and draws attention to the burgeoning volume and sensitivity of CAI, spurred by advancements in digital technology, smartphone features, and online advertising monetization models, the Daily Wire reported.
“Today, in a way that far fewer Americans seem to understand, and even fewer of them can avoid, CAI includes information on nearly everyone that is of a type and level of sensitivity that historically could have been obtained, if at all, only through targeted (and predicated) collection, and that could be used to cause harm to an individual’s reputation, emotional well-being, or physical safety,” the report stated.
The document also cautions that despite data often being "anonymized," it's frequently possible to connect this information back to the individuals concerned. Such linkages could pose a substantial risk, the report warned, stating, “Without proper controls, CAI can be misused to cause substantial harm, embarrassment, and inconvenience to U.S. persons.”
It adds that “under the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes, and internal procedures of the intelligence community, CAI is generally less strictly regulated than other forms of information acquired by the IC, principally because it is publicly available.”
“In our view, however, changes in CAI have considerably undermined the historical policy rationale for treating [publicly available information] categorically as non-sensitive information, that the Intelligence Community can use without significantly affecting the privacy and civil liberties of U.S. persons,” the report found.
Highlighting the potential misuse of CAI, the report warns, “In the wrong hands, sensitive insights gained through CAI could facilitate blackmail, stalking, harassment, and public shaming.”
“The government would never have been permitted to compel billions of people to carry location tracking devices on their persons at all times, to log and track most of their social interactions, or to keep flawless records of all their reading habits,” the report stated.
The document points out the unintended consequences of modern technology: “Yet smartphones, connected cars, web tracking technologies, the Internet of Things, and other innovations have had this effect without government participation. While the IC cannot willingly blind itself to this information, it must appreciate how unfettered access to CAI increases its power in ways that may exceed our constitutional traditions or other societal expectations.”