Consumers’ Sensitive Internet Metadata Sold to DOD-Funded Researchers

December 19, 2022

In a letter to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan, Sen. Ron Wyden revealed that Neustar, which provides recursive Domain Name System (DNS) services, sold consumers’ sensitive internet metadata to researchers funded by the Department of Defense. According to Sen. Wyden’s letter, U.S. federal agencies, including the FBI and DOJ, asked the Georgia Tech researchers to run specific queries on the data and share those findings with the government. In his letter, Sen. Wyden requested that the FTC investigate whether Neustar violated the FTC Act by failing to adequately notify its consumers that Neustar was selling their data.

EPIC has a particular interest in protecting consumer privacy and has played a leading role in developing the authority of the FTC to safeguard the privacy rights of consumers. In November, EPIC submitted comments in response to the FTC’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding a Trade Regulation Rule on Commercial Surveillance and Data Security. In its comments, EPIC called for the FTC to prohibit out-of-context secondary uses of consumer data, including the growing practice of data brokers providing consumer data to government agencies without a warrant.

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