First it was your phone records; now it could be your financial transactions.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Central Intelligence Agency is collecting data from U.S. money-transfer companies such as Western Union in an effort to find or track suspected funding for terrorists.
With its focus on foreign intelligence, the CIA cannot target Americans in its investigations, but it can conduct domestic operations that aid its intelligence-gathering. The agency says it isn’t collecting transaction information that takes place within the U.S.—but it can obtain records through court order for those that happen between the U.S. and foreign countries.
The CIA is being allowed to do this under the same provision of the Patriot Act that enables the National Security Agency to collect phone records that they believe to be relevant to a terrorist investigation. But the broad interpretation of “relevant,” as brought to light by whistleblower Edward Snowden, meant the NSA was able to collect the records of millions of Americans. This revelation raised red flags for lawmakers concerned about privacy.
The justification for the program comes from the discovery that some of the terrorists involved in the 9/11 hijacking were using money-transfer services to send funds to one another.
Depending on the company, some service providers will ask for such information as names, addresses, phone numbers and even Social Security or passport information before you can wire cash. But the CIA says it obtains the data from the company in bulk and takes efforts to mask personal information about Americans—unless that data is deemed important to foreign investigations.
Even so, some lawmakers still want to stem the use of the Patriot Act to collect large swaths of data collected on Americans.
Do these latest revelations make you nervous about your financial privacy? Here are some tips for how to safeguard your financial data.