Customs and Border Protection (CBP) just got its hands on a whole bunch of location data. The news service Motherboard (Vice’s technology segment) uncovered a procurement order for $476,000 paid to the company Venntel Software last month. Venntel specializes in location data mining, compiling and selling GPS data gathered on users from various phone apps.
Sources who work with Venntel gave Motherboard more insight into the type of data the government now has its hands on.
Venntel’s technology only gives anonymized data, meaning it does not identify specific people or phone numbers. It gives only a randomized identification number. BUT there is an easy way to identify the owners of the phone.
The technology allows the CBP to draw a perimeter around a geographical area, and obtain the location data for any phones in that area. In this way, CBP could draw a circle around one particular home, acquire the data from it, and surmise that the few devices in that home belong to the homeowners.
What this means:
This allows Customs and Border Protection to ignore laws that require them to obtain a warrant before surveilling particular subjects. They simply purchase the data, instead of having to show probable cause that a crime has been committed.
THE RISE OF the internet-connected home security camera has generally been a boon to police, as owners of these devices can (and frequently do) share footage with cops at the touch of a button. But according to a leaked FBI bulletin, law enforcement has discovered an ironic downside to ubiquitous privatized surveillance: The cameras are alerting residents when police show up to conduct searches.
A November 2019 “technical analysis bulletin” from the FBI provides an overview of “opportunities and challenges” for police from networked security systems like Amazon’s Ring and other “internet of things,” or IoT, devices. Marked unclassified but “law enforcement sensitive” and for official use only, the document was included as part of the BlueLeaks cache of material hacked from the websites of fusion centers and other law enforcement entities.
Nothing that you do on your phone is private. In this day and age, most of us have become extremely dependent on our phones, and most Americans never even realize that these extremely sophisticated little devices are gathering mountains of information on each one of us.
Your phone knows what you look like, it knows the sound of your voice, it knows where you have been, it knows where you have shopped, it knows your Internet searches and it knows what you like to do in your free time. In fact, your phone literally knows thousands of things about you, and all of that information is bought and sold every single day without you knowing.
And as you will see below, there are lots of companies out there that use information collected from our phones to create secret “surveillance scores” that are used for a whole host of alarming purposes.
How do you know if a government of law enforcement agency has hacked your personal device? The truth of the matter is: most of the time you don’t.
One of the most common methods used by police to spy on the public, is by using an expensive piece of technology called a “Stingray,” manufactured by Harris Corporation in Florida. This special high-tech black box pretends to be a mobile phone/cell tower, allow police to divert your phone signal to their black box, rather than the nearly cellular tower. Moments after connecting their device to you phone, police can then gather a huge amount of information.
In addition to Stingray which clocks in at a cool $148,000, they also make advanced surveillance products like KingFish and Crossbow.