A growing number of law enforcement agencies, including the US Secret Service, are buying data that usually requires a warrant, according to a publication, and at least one U.S. senator wants to stop them.
Secret Service paid about $ 2 million in 2017-2018 to a company called Babel Street to use the Locate X service, according to a document (PDF) held by Vice Motherboard. The agreement describes what kind of content, training and customer support Babel Street is required to provide to the Secret Service.
Locate X provides location data collected and sorted by many applications, Reported the technology site Protocol earlier in 2020. Users can "design a digital fence around an address or area, locate mobile devices located in that area and see where these devices have traveled in recent months," he said. the Protocol.
The services of the Ministry of Internal Security, seem to have acquired access to the mobile phone tracking service for investigations, Reported The Wall Street Journal in February. In June, the WSJ Reported also that the government bought access to location data through commercial databases.
Private companies can collect, buy, sell and exchange all kinds of sensitive user data, with very few restrictions - and they do.
All kinds of mobile applications collect location data, both legally and illegally, and then sell it to data intermediaries. Data intermediaries are theoretically anonymous, but in practice they are easily identifiable.
The New York Times in 2018 they showed how easy it is to track a person throughout their daily life using a single data collection company.
"The database reviewed by The Times - a sample of information gathered in 2017 - reveals people's travel in astonishing detail, exact locations that in some cases were updated more than 14.000 times a day," the newspaper said at the time.
Applications are not the only ones collecting and selling this information. All four US mobile phone providers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile) were caught selling customers' location data without their consent in 2018 and 2019.
Law enforcement agencies are required to have a warrant for obtaining location data from an individual's mobile phone, as ruled by the US Supreme Court in 2018.
However, at present no one is preventing the Authorities from buying whatever information they want from the existing market. Senator Ron Wyden told Vice that this needs to change.