DHS buys ‘shocking amount’ of phone-tracking data

DHS buys ‘shocking amount’ of phone-tracking data: Years, people Didn’t think so, but how much Department of Homeland Security accesses mobile location data To monitor US citizens. This week, the American Civil Liberties Union released Thousands of pages of documents have been heavily redacted DHS offers a “glimpse” of how agencies accessed a “shocking amount” of location data, apparently buying the data without following proper protocols to ensure they had the authority to do so.

The documents were shared with the ACLU “Over the past year through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.” Then came access to Politico and A report was released It confirms that DHS contracted with two surveillance firms, Babel Street and Vennell, to search hundreds of millions of cellphones from 2017 to 2019 and access “more than 336,000 location data points across North America.” A collection of emails, contracts, spreadsheets and presentation slides prove that “the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement used mobile location data to track people’s movements on a larger scale than previously known,” and that the practice continued under Biden because of the deal. Not due until 2021.

Much of the new information describes DHS’ extensive contract with Vennel, a data broker that says it sells mobile location data to solve “the world’s most challenging problems.” In the documents, US Customs and Border Patrol said the vannel location data helped improve immigration enforcement and investigations into human trafficking and narcotics.

Congress may actually pass ADPPA, the American Data Privacy and Protection Act

It’s still unclear whether the practice is legal, but a DHS privacy official was so concerned about privacy and legal concerns that he ordered DHS to “cease all projects involving Venntel data” in June 2019. But privacy and legal groups reached an agreement on terms of use last winter as Immigration and Customs Enforcement signed a new Vennell contract that runs through June 2023, as the purchase of location data resumes.

The The ACLU still explains The “shady” practice shows how they are “pushing aside” the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable government searches and seizures, saying DHS agencies still owe them more documents. Phone location information is quietly extracted from smartphone apps. Of particular concern, DHS’s privacy compliance The ACLU noted that an email from a senior director confirmed that DHS “appeared to have purchased access to Venntel, even though the required privacy threshold assessment was never passed.”

DHS did not comment on the Politico story, and neither the DHS agencies mentioned nor the ACLU immediately responded to Arce’s request for comment.

No laws currently prevent the sale of data to the government, but the ACLU says that could change soon. The bill was passed by the ACLU The Fourth Amendment is not a law of sale, it is designed as such. Even if that bill passes, the new law still provides some exemptions that allow government agencies to continue tracking mobile location data. The ACLU did not immediately respond to comment on any concerns about those exemptions.

How to stop location data tracking

That is the main question under discussion A Supreme Court decision In 2017, police must have a warrant to search cell phone data, which applies to government agencies like DHS. This is A gray areaThe Congressional Research Service says this is because “the Supreme Court has long recognized that the government may conduct routine inspections and searches of persons entering the US border without a warrant” and “some federal courts have applied the ‘border search exception.’ , allow manual searches.

DHS isn’t the only government agency to think otherwise. In 2021, The Defense Intelligence Agency also purchased location data without a warrantThe Department of Defense is bypassing the 2017 Supreme Court decision because it has its own “data handling requirements approved by the Attorney General.”

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