Nature

US law enforcement agencies use ‘Fog Reveal’ tool to track users with data from popular apps: report


US law enforcement allegedly accessed the location of 250 million smartphones in order to access ‘hundreds of billions of records’, using a tool provided by a private company that buys collected user information by data brokers from popular apps. The company’s device tracking tool relies on the advertising IDs of users’ phones that allow managers to track their movements, without the need for a warrant, over time while focusing and analyzing models, according to a report.

According to a detailed Associated Press report based on documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a tool called Fog Reveal has been sold under approximately 40 contracts to more than 20 U.S. security agencies. law application. The tool is created by Virginia-based Fog Data Science and is believed to be widely used by law enforcement in the United States.

Unlike legal user location tracking that requires the lengthy process of obtaining a warrant, using Fog Reveal allows law enforcement to track smartphones using data from popular apps. such as Starbucks or Waze, according to the report. User location data allows agencies to track people’s movements over time, while creating “life patterns”, which are based on location information.

The report said the use of the tool was top secret – in some cases it was not mentioned in US court records, which could prevent lawyers from defending their clients in cases where the technology was used.

Fog Reveal relies on data from popular apps, such as Waze and Starbucks, which assign users an advertising ID. Users’ location details, which are tied to their ID, are both used to target them with ads, while they go to companies like Fog Data Science, according to the report, which says the companies were unaware that the data was used for the tracking tool.

Although advertising identifiers do not contain a user’s name, phone number, or personally identifying details, the report indicates that location details may be used over time to anonymize the user and analyze their movements.

As the report points out, U.S. courts are still weighing the use of location information, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s latest ruling ruled that law enforcement would need a warrant in most jurisdictions. cases to view records of users’ movements and location.


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