"But when one Atlanta, Georgia-based Internet provider was served a top-secret data request, there wasn't a suited-and-booted federal agent in sight.
"Why? Because the order was served on a so-called "trusted third-party," which handles the request, served fresh from the secretive Washington D.C.-based Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court. With permission from their ISP customers, these third-parties discreetly wiretap their networks at the behest of law enforcement agencies, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and even intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency (NSA).
"By implementing these government data requests with precision and accuracy, trusted third-parties — like Neustar, Subsentio, and Yaana — can turn reasonable profits for their services.
"Little is known about these types of companies, which act as outsourced data brokers between small and major U.S. ISPs and phone companies, and the federal government."
"It's not hidden, but it's not visible."