The F.B.I. has used secret subpoenas to obtain personal data from far more companies than previously disclosed, newly released documents show.
The requests, which the F.B.I. says are critical to its counterterrorism efforts, have raised privacy concerns for years but have been associated mainly with tech companies. Now, records show how far beyond Silicon Valley the practice extends — encompassing scores of banks, credit agencies, cellphone carriers and even universities.
The demands can scoop up a variety of information, including usernames, locations, IP addresses and records of purchases. They don’t require a judge’s approval and usually come with a gag order, leaving them shrouded in secrecy. Fewer than 20 entities, most of them tech companies, have ever revealed that they’ve received the subpoenas, known as national security letters.
The documents, obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit and shared with The New York Times, shed light on the scope of the demands — more than 120 companies and other entities were included in the filing — and raise questions about the effectiveness of a 2015 law that was intended to increase transparency around them.