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The FBI has been collecting information about U.S. residents such as friends, political activities and online shopping for more than a decade, the former owner of an Internet company revealed.

The agency has been collecting the personal Internet data through so-called "National Security Letters."

"For more than a decade, the FBI has been demanding extremely sensitive personal information about private citizens just by issuing letters to online companies like mine," said Nicholas Merrill, who owned the New York-based Calyx Internet Access.

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