The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been buying location data of millions of cellphone users from third party players. According to documents released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on July 18, the DHS is buying this data without any warrants to track movements of civilians.
“The released records shine a light on the millions of taxpayer dollars DHS used to buy access to cell phone location information being aggregated and sold by two shadowy data brokers, Venntel and Babel Street,” the report read.
The documents show that this vast amount of location data of people are being purchased by various DHS agencies, including the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) without any judicial oversight, to track people’s movements and use it for “unreasonable government searches and seizures.” Further The data, purchased by the DHS, allowed law enforcement to identify devices & locations at “places of interest,” and to obtain information about frequent visitors, discover patterns of life and collect other important details, as well as track specific individuals or everyone in a particular area.
The records, running into thousands of pages – 6,168 to be precise — contain more than 336,000 location points across North America that had been obtained from people’s smartphones.
The documents obtained by ACLU over the past year reveals that the bulk of the data came from two companies – Venntel, a location intelligence company headquartered in Washington, DC, and Babel Street, a Virgina-based AI company.
The documents also reveal in detail that not only were the federal agencies aware of what they were doing but also made efforts to rationalize those actions, or even hide them. For instance, the records claimed that the data was “opt-in” and “voluntarily shared ” by users, and that it is collected with consent of the app user and “permission of the individual.”
“By searching through this massive trove of location information at their whim, government investigators can identify and track specific individuals or everyone in a particular area, learning details of our private activities and associations,” noted the ACLU.
Sources : Sputnik News