Listen to this article here
Joint investigations by The Associated Press and the Electronic Frontier Foundation found that cops were using a mass surveillance app called Fog Reveal to track the location of individuals without a search warrant.
A recent survey by the Associated Press and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital privacy advocacy group, found that police used “Fog Reveal” to search hundreds of billions of records from 250 million mobile devices, and used the data to create location analytics known as “lifestyles”, often without a search warrant.
For as little as $7,500 a year, law enforcement agencies across the country can access a treasure trove of data points from over 250 million smart phones that are used to track where a person works, lives and surrenders.
“We fill a void for underfunded and understaffed departments,” said Matthew Broderick, Fog’s managing partner. said in an email to the AP, adding that the company does not have access to people’s personal information and that no search warrant is required. The company declined to share information on how many police departments it works with.
How police are using Fog Reveal to track individuals’ locations
The EFF has filed more than 100 Freedom of Information Act requests over several months to learn that Fog Reveal has 18 past or ongoing contractual relationships with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
The company was developed by two former senior Department of Homeland Security officials under former President George W. Bush. Mass surveillance relies on advertising ID numbers, which Fog officials say are pulled from popular cellphone apps like Waze, Starbucks and hundreds of others that target ads based on movement and of a person’s interests, according to police emails. This information is then sold to companies like Fog Reveal.
The EFF was able analyze the public code of Fog Reveal to show how law enforcement is able to track an individual’s movements.
First, law enforcement officials can draw a geofence anywhere in the country to reveal individual users in that area.
Apps that have been authorized to track activity create a heat map of an individual’s location and, based on the date and time, law enforcement can track an individual’s path over time.
Legislation introduced to block mass surveillance of data companies
In March, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced a bill that would require public reporting and notice to individuals when government agencies use email, location and web browsing records and other digital information to track someone.
The Government Oversight Transparency Act was introduced in the Senate in March, but has not gained traction since its initial reading.
“When the government gets someone’s emails or other digital information, users have a right to know,” Wyden said. “Our bill ensures that no investigation will be compromised, but ensures that the government cannot hide surveillance indefinitely by abusing sealing and gag orders to prevent the American people from understanding the enormous scale of government surveillance. , while ensuring that targets eventually learn that their personal information has been searched.
One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), said “For privacy to be properly protected, our regulations must keep pace with technology, and that has not been the case with notification of innocent Americans whose electronic data has been monitored by the government. I am proud to join a bipartisan group to ensure that Americans understand what their government is doing with their information and that their privacy is responsibly protected.
What Data Monitoring Means to You
Data and mass surveillance by law enforcement without the knowledge of an individual or a search warrant is something everyone should actively fight against.
At a time when GOP members are encouraging “Bounty Hunter” Laws targeting those who help a person to have an abortion in a State where it’s legal, for nowthe follow-up movement of law enforcement will be scrutinized.
The Black Wall Street Times encourages all of its viewers to opt out of ad tracking on their cell phones and disable location permissions for any app you do not fully trust.
You can reset or deactivate your phone’s advertising ID by following the instructions here.