How Your Online Data is Being Abused to Surveil you and Violate Your Freedoms

Do you know how much personal information on you and your family is available online for data brokers to harvest without your knowledge? 

Data brokers are aggregating your online information to build profiles on you and your family members, which they then sell to anyone willing to pay. That includes government agencies, which are paying these data brokers to spy on Americans, creating an ecosystem of surveillance that jeopardizes peoples’ data privacy and security, and violates our civil liberties. 


A California County hired a data broker to track the location and number of people attending church during government-enforced COVID-19 lockdowns. The location data was so specific that the county was able to identify how many people visited each structure within the church’s property. 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) used taxpayer dollars to hire a data mining and surveillance company to screen travelers, including U.S. citizens, by linking people’s social media posts to personal information like their Social Security number and location data. This is particularly troubling given DHS’ recent attempt to establish a disinformation governance board to surveil and censor Americans online. 

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) used a data broker company to collect personal data on investigative journalist Matt Taibbi who—through his Twitter Files reporting—was exposing the government's collusion with Big Tech to censor Americans and control what they see online. The IRS visited Taibbi’s home unannounced the same day he testified before Congress on the weaponization of the federal government. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) paid $420,000 to a data broker for access to Americans’ location data, which was harvested from tens of millions of Americans’ phones. This data was then used by the CDC to monitor whether Americans were complying with curfews and track who was visiting K-12 schools. 

BOTTOM LINE: The Energy and Commerce Committee is investigating data brokers’ unrestrained collection of Americans’ data, and their ability to sell our most sensitive information to anyone including to government agencies. This is the type of behavior we would expect from the Chinese Communist Party—not the United States.  

NEXT STEPS: The best way to protect Americans’ personal information online and end this surveillance state is with a comprehensive data privacy and security law, which would: 

  • Give Americans more control over their data;  
  • Bring these data brokers out from the shadows;
  • Preserve law enforcement’s ability to protect their communities; and  
  • Prevent the government from buying data from data brokers to violate people's civil liberties.  

Read more about the Energy and Commerce Committee's bipartisan efforts to strengthen data security and privacy protections for Americans across the country, no matter where they live.