SEC Sued For ‘Mass Surveillance’ Of Stock Market Investors

The New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) has filed a lawsuit against the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), accusing the government agency of illegally collecting data about every American citizen who invests in the stock market.

The lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday, accuses the SEC of using its “Consolidated Audit Trail” (CAT) program to collect massive amounts of personally identifiable data on Americans through forcing brokers, exchanges, clearing agencies and alternative trading systems to capture and turn over detailed information about every investor’s trades into a centralized database.

This shocking effort has been undertaken without congressional authorization and in direct violation of Americans’ Fourth Amendment right protections against unreasonable government search and seizure of private information.

The CAT program, which was created under former President Barack Obama with bipartisan support within the SEC, is a self-appropriated multi-billion-dollar fund, with the funding coming from a variety of fees collected by the agency through investment transactions, according to the NCLA.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit civil rights group declared the CAT program to be “completely unlawful” and argued that it puts Americans’ financial data at “grave risk.”

In a statement,  NCLA senior litigation counsel Peggy Little explained: “By seizing all financial data from all Americans who trade in the American exchanges, SEC arrogates surveillance powers and appropriates billions of dollars without a shred of Congressional authority — all while putting Americans’ savings and investments at grave and perpetual risk.”

“The Founders provided rock-solid protections in our Constitution to prevent just these autocratic and dangerous actions. This CAT must be ripped out, root and branch,” she added.

Little further explained to Fox News Digital that every piece of “trade information on every investor’s trades from inception to completion” is collected and stored in the SEC’s database, including information about Americans’ 401(k) or 529 Education Fund.

“And there is simply no law that permits them to do that, and the Fourth Amendment forbids them to do that,” she added.

“And here’s the dirty little truth: all investing Americans will pay for this because it’s paid for by fees that the SROs [self-regulatory organizations] extract from the brokerage houses, who charge their customers… I mean, this is a multibillion-dollar tax on American investors and American investing, and nobody ever voted for it,” Little continued.

The NCLA declared in its lawsuit that CAT is “the greatest government mandated mass collection of personal financial data in United States history.”

“Historically, a government that wished to track its citizens had to devote large resources to having them followed,” the lawsuit noted. “That is no longer the case: modern surveillance tools enable mass tracking of individuals’ every movement, every transaction, every purchase, sale, or transfer of securities at low cost while powerful computer algorithms can process that information to reveal personal and private details of each person’s financial life or investment strategy.”

“This class action complaint challenges SEC’s shocking arrogation of power to impose dystopian surveillance, suspicionless seizures, and real or potential searches on millions of American investors,” the NCLA explained in the lawsuit, which was filed in the Western District of Texas.

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