The DoD is using GPS data purchased from mobile apps for warrantless surveillance, says...

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,971   +790
Staff member
In context: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. — Fourth Amendment, US Constitution

A US senator is accusing the Department of Defense (DoD) of surveilling US citizens without a warrant. According to Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), a branch of the DoD, has allegedly been purchasing cellphone location data from apps installed on US phones to track "suspected terrorists, illegal immigrants," and other threats to national security.

"In February 2020, media reports revealed that US government agencies are buying location data obtained from apps on Americans' phones and are doing so without any kind of legal process, such as a court order," Wyden wrote in a three-page letter to the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin obtained by Vice. "I have spent the last year investigating the shady, unregulated data brokers that are selling this data and the government agencies that are buying it."

The DIA holds the position that the Fourth Amendment only applies to data that is seized by compulsion. Since the DIA is purchasing the data, it is not unreasonable search and seizure as defined in the Constitution or by the Supreme Court ruling in Carpenter v. United States.

The DoD is not the only agency using data brokers to track US citizens either. Wyden claims his investigation uncovered similar activities with the Internal Revenue Service, Customs and Border Protection, and the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Wyden had previously written to the DIA asking eight questions regarding the data collection and the agency's stance on it. The DIA only answered three on the record. The remaining questions were also answered, but were deemed either "Controlled Unclassified Information" or classified. Senator Wyden asks Secretary Austin to release the information provided by the DIA to him to the public.

"Information should only be classified if its unauthorized disclosure would cause damage to national security," Wyden said. "The information provided by DoD in response to my questions does not meat that bar. The American people have a right to know the answers to these questions. Accordingly, I request that you clear this information for release to the public by June 15, 2021."

Permalink to story.

 

psycros

Posts: 3,458   +4,028
If its not OK for the government to buy that info then why would it be OK for literally every damn company on Earth to do it?? But more importantly, why would it be OK for that info to be gathered in the first place? The government has legitimate reasons for keeping an eye on certain individuals or groups - the private sector does not. Frankly, these occasional outbursts from libertarians or liberals really don't amount to much more than political posturing. Nothing of consequence has changed in nearly ten years as far as mass surveillance of US citizens is concerned. The giant data centers are still there monitoring the details of every phone call, every email, every text...and people go on with their lives. FISA hides all the dirt on what's really happening and uses the law to keep it that way. I used to actually fear the surveillance state but it couldn't even be bothered to use all that data to round up BLM terrorists who were torching our cities for months on end. Breaking most encrypted channels is a matter of a court order sent to Google or Facebook, and their happy to comply since the government allows them to operate dangerous monopolies. Only Apple puts up a fight and I suspect if the stakes were high enough the pressure on them to cave would be overwhelming.
 

captaincranky

Posts: 16,775   +5,523
So, the government is using taxpayer money to buy tracking information on taxpayers? Shouldn't they be tracking this for "free"? :p
The only thing the government does for "free", on a regular basis, is regale you with political mail, which is mailed and delivered at no charge, by your friendly neighborhood postman..
 
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Danny101

Posts: 1,647   +703
So, the government is using taxpayer money to buy tracking information on taxpayers? Shouldn't they be tracking this for "free"? :p
"Since the DIA is purchasing the data, it is not unreasonable search and seizure as defined in the Constitution or by the Supreme Court ruling in Carpenter v. United States."
And they're using our money to do it. So what's the difference between that and a court order when the results are the same?
 

Danny101

Posts: 1,647   +703
Not only do we have a fascist surveillance state (public/private partnership), but they're doing it off the backs of our work and lives. It's opt-in slavery.
 

brucek

Posts: 803   +1,104
TechSpot Elite
Meanwhile DoD adversaries are tracking its personnel via the same means, as well as using the data to determine the location, purpose and staffing of its non-disclosed locations.

You'd think at some point we'd get serious about properly managing what gets collected and stored, and who is allowed to access it for what purposes with appropriate safeguards ("trust but verify").
 
If something feels shady or makes your skin crawl, then there's a good reason for that. Can't have our government acting like thugs. Obtain the information legally and then there's no problem. I'm sure we all want criminals caught but not at the expense of becoming criminals themselves. Simple! =)
 

DrSuess

Posts: 98   +68

If something feels shady or makes your skin crawl, then there's a good reason for that. Can't have our government acting like thugs. Obtain the information legally and then there's no problem. I'm sure we all want criminals caught but not at the expense of becoming criminals themselves. Simple! =)

Since the data is publicly available it is legally available to anyone willing to buy it, including the US or foreign governments. The data was not fraudulently collected, people freely agreed to have the data collect and agreed to have that data sold to 3rd parties, when they use certain apps (facebook, tiktok etc.). There is nothing criminal about using data that is legally in the public domain for sale to anyone who has the funds. You have no expectation of privacy when you use apps/services that explicitly require you to wave your privacy rights in order to use those apps/services.
 

Hexic

Posts: 956   +1,356
TechSpot Elite
Since the data is publicly available it is legally available to anyone willing to buy it, including the US or foreign governments. The data was not fraudulently collected, people freely agreed to have the data collect and agreed to have that data sold to 3rd parties, when they use certain apps (facebook, tiktok etc.). There is nothing criminal about using data that is legally in the public domain for sale to anyone who has the funds. You have no expectation of privacy when you use apps/services that explicitly require you to wave your privacy rights in order to use those apps/services.

This. ^

You signed the dotted line when you gave your privacy away to -private- companies.

People complain about warrantless wiretaps & mass surveillance from the government, and in the same breath then turn around and complain when the government purchases data legitimately?

Talk about a double standard.
 

sreams

Posts: 168   +265
Since the data is publicly available it is legally available to anyone willing to buy it, including the US or foreign governments. The data was not fraudulently collected, people freely agreed to have the data collect and agreed to have that data sold to 3rd parties, when they use certain apps (facebook, tiktok etc.). There is nothing criminal about using data that is legally in the public domain for sale to anyone who has the funds. You have no expectation of privacy when you use apps/services that explicitly require you to wave your privacy rights in order to use those apps/services.

Governments "buy" things at the request of the people (the source of the money) or their representatives. They can't just buy any old thing they want.
 

Gollum22

Posts: 18   +14
Governments "buy" things at the request of the people (the source of the money) or their representatives. They can't just buy any old thing they want.
Not saying the following gets at the core of the issue, not even close. But consider that other governments are willing to buy data about US citizens as well, and that the DoD can't even know the full scale of what other buyers have on US citizens without doing the same.

But yep, we could get our representatives to make sure no one gets it in the first place. But as long as enough people don't care it will always be a problem one way or another.


These data collection companies are analogous to arms dealers that sell to anyone. Doesn't matter who wins the war they get money either way. They escalate the situation for everyone.
 
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sreams

Posts: 168   +265
Not saying the following gets at the core of the issue, not even close. But consider that other governments are willing to buy data about US citizens as well, and that the DoD can't even know the full scale of what other buyers have on US citizens without doing the same.

But yep, we could get our representatives to make sure no one gets it in the first place. But as long as enough people don't care it will always be a problem one way or another.


These data collection companies are analogous to arms dealers that sell to anyone. Doesn't matter who wins the war they get money either way. They escalate the situation for everyone.

I suppose what does matter is the wording of any contract people entered into. Does it say anything about sharing data with governments that provide no warrants?
 

brucek

Posts: 803   +1,104
TechSpot Elite
No, it is not true the (US) government is allowed to do anything a private company can do. For example, the first amendment prohibits the government from setting many restrictions on speech, that a private entity would be allowed to. There is no reason for the fourth amendment to be different.

Also, the gold standard for location data is the cell towers providing mobile phone service. These towers require government license to operate, are semi-monopolies (you can not just start your own mobile provider), are highly regulated, and are not really optional for most citizens to remain employed and functional in modern society. The agreements consumers sign do not in fact include explicit permission for the phone companies to sell your individual data to all comers by name; indeed, that is supposed to be restricted. The fact that data brokers have found shady holes to get around these restrictions does not at all make it the consumer's fault for "opting in" to this ludicrous situation.
 

DrSuess

Posts: 98   +68
Governments "buy" things at the request of the people (the source of the money) or their representatives. They can't just buy any old thing they want.
The government buy things in support of its business, interest and stated mission. There are many government programs that the people do not even know exists and yet the government procures what ever it wants/needs to support those unacknowledged programs. The details of the unacknowledged programs are even shield from most of congress except for those on the intelligence committees. So the government does not need to buy things at the request of the people it buys what it needs to execute its programs
 
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DrSuess

Posts: 98   +68
I suppose what does matter is the wording of any contract people entered into. Does it say anything about sharing data with governments that provide no warrants?
The wording in those contracts says that your personal information may be sold or shared with 3rd parties, and in this case the government is a legitimate 3rd party. People have agreed to have their data collected when they agreed to the End User Agreement. If the data is publicly available for purchase why would you need a warrant? You only need a warrant when the authorities need access to something or some place where you have an expectation of privacy. You have no expectation of privacy on data you agreed to sell or share with 3rd parties.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 5,919   +4,173
And just who enables sh!t like this anyway? Without whom, would this be possible?

Well, folks, I hate to state the obvious, but it, IMO, it is companies like crApple and Gagme (Apple and Google for those who do not know me) that enable it with their need to feed the insatiable appetite of the scourge of modern economics - Advertising.

Its society itself that enables this kind of crap. IMO, there is something drastically wrong here, though I doubt most modern humans have the balls to admit to such. :(
 

DrSuess

Posts: 98   +68
And just who enables sh!t like this anyway? Without whom, would this be possible?

Well, folks, I hate to state the obvious, but it, IMO, it is companies like crApple and Gagme (Apple and Google for those who do not know me) that enable it with their need to feed the insatiable appetite of the scourge of modern economics - Advertising.

Its society itself that enables this kind of crap. IMO, there is something drastically wrong here, though I doubt most modern humans have the balls to admit to such. :(
People that use their services enable it. If everyone said no to the terms of use those companies could not monetize people's information. The power is on the side of the consumer if they wish to exercise it. This is on the user as most users have no clue as to what they are agreeing when they click yes to the terms and conditions of uses of an app or service.
 

Mr Majestyk

Posts: 731   +622
If its not OK for the government to buy that info then why would it be OK for literally every damn company on Earth to do it?? But more importantly, why would it be OK for that info to be gathered in the first place? The government has legitimate reasons for keeping an eye on certain individuals or groups - the private sector does not. Frankly, these occasional outbursts from libertarians or liberals really don't amount to much more than political posturing. Nothing of consequence has changed in nearly ten years as far as mass surveillance of US citizens is concerned. The giant data centers are still there monitoring the details of every phone call, every email, every text...and people go on with their lives. FISA hides all the dirt on what's really happening and uses the law to keep it that way. I used to actually fear the surveillance state but it couldn't even be bothered to use all that data to round up BLM terrorists who were torching our cities for months on end. Breaking most encrypted channels is a matter of a court order sent to Google or Facebook, and their happy to comply since the government allows them to operate dangerous monopolies. Only Apple puts up a fight and I suspect if the stakes were high enough the pressure on them to cave would be overwhelming.

What a loser, having to play the BLM terrorist card while blithely ignoring the racist white trash that brought this about and the biggest terrorist of all, your former narcissist in chief Chump and his unhinged army of losers still in denial, that also were plotting to kill the Governor of Michigan again at Chump's urging. Any other person would be doing life in prison for treason and if it were Obama he would have been lynched.
 

Bobbydpue

Posts: 107   +69
Not only do we have a fascist surveillance state (public/private partnership), but they're doing it off the backs of our work and lives. It's opt-in slavery.

The "surveillance" you are talking about is public data transmitted in the clear (without encryption) that anyone can see. People aggregate that data and sell it to the highest bidder which is legal. Buying that data is legal. If you've ever agreed to a software's use policy you likely gave someone permission to use the data you create. This article is designed to create drama and outrage without enough evidence to do so. This is propaganda.

Stop using "fascist" when you don't know what it means.

Fascism means:

"a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition"

A fascist government wouldn't let articles like this be publish without someone getting murdered. A fascist government wouldn't let people post their opinions on a public forum without being able to verify their identity and location.

How is buying data available to anyone with enough money and using that information to arrest people who are dangerous or who broke the law related to fascism? If the US government was arresting people who've done nothing but speak out against the government you'd have every right to use the F word, but that's not what's happening at all. Do you know the history of Fascism? Stop trying to create outrage and drama by using words you don't understand.
 

Bobbydpue

Posts: 107   +69
What a loser, having to play the BLM terrorist card while blithely ignoring the racist white trash that brought this about and the biggest terrorist of all, your former narcissist in chief Chump and his unhinged army of losers still in denial, that also were plotting to kill the Governor of Michigan again at Chump's urging. Any other person would be doing life in prison for treason and if it were Obama he would have been lynched.

"racist white trash" Well that's clearly racist, do you see the irony and hypocrisy? "narcissist in chief Chump", "unhinged army of losers", "at Chump's urging". Really? There is plenty of factual reasons to dislike Trump, so many there isn't any reason to just make up stuff or use childish insults. Where is the connection between whatever it is you are upset about and Trump?

I didn't realize fighting terrorism and arresting people who are in the country illegally with data publicly available was so evil. Why would anyone want to protect terrorists and illegal aliens?
 

Aranarth

Posts: 90   +73
"racist white trash" Well that's clearly racist, do you see the irony and hypocrisy? "narcissist in chief Chump", "unhinged army of losers", "at Chump's urging". Really? There is plenty of factual reasons to dislike Trump, so many there isn't any reason to just make up stuff or use childish insults. Where is the connection between whatever it is you are upset about and Trump?

I didn't realize fighting terrorism and arresting people who are in the country illegally with data publicly available was so evil. Why would anyone want to protect terrorists and illegal aliens?

Actually this has been going on for the last 40 years or longer.
LexisNexis was founded in 1973.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LexisNexis

Cell phones has just made it easier for "3rd parties" to buy your information and track you everywhere.

I guarantee that if you asked, LexisNexis has a file on you and knows every major thing you have ever done that is part of public record, every place you lived, every car you own, guns purchased, places worked, SSN information, past phone numbers, current phone numbers, you name it.
They know more about you than the credit reporting bureaus.

LexisNexis is the one company I can think of on the top of my head but there are many other ones out there.

 

Danny101

Posts: 1,647   +703
The problem here is what is allowable in contract law without other available options, or live in the 1800's. It's a trap. If you want access to modern day conveniences, you essentially have to sign away your rights to privacy. It's discrimination of an insidious sort for those who cherish their rights but really can't live in a modern day society. It's systematic. For example: I like to keep location history for my own convenience of where I've been. I can't enable that feature without virtually making it available to the globe. There's simply no other option as far as I can see it. And if there was one smither of an app that did that, the controllers would know about it and cite it as choice. And you bet, they would do everything possible to obfuscate that option to my awareness. The illusion of choice is in their favor. That's gaming the court system as well. It's all game and game theory.