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3 Dez 2020

Joseph Cox, VICE

How an ICE contractor tracks phones around the world through ordinary apps

Venntel, a government contractor that sells location data of smartphones to U.S. law enforcement agencies including ICE, CBP, and the FBI, gathers information through a highly complex supply chain of advertising firms, data resellers, and ultimately innocuous-looking apps installed on peoples' phones around the world, according to a cache of documents obtained by Norwegian media organization NRK and shared with Motherboard.

Although it's not clear if Venntel ultimately provides all data generated from this specific supply chain to agencies such as ICE, the documents provide much deeper and previously unreported insight into how data moves from apps, middlemen companies, and through to data brokers. In this case, Venntel.

"I don't think people understand just to what degree your location tells you everything you need to know about someone's life; just how invasive that is," a source who previously worked at another location data firm that has contracts with U.S. law enforcement and military agencies told Motherboard...

... Martin Gundersen from NRK installed a number of apps onto an Android device, including some from map navigation company Sygic ... Sygic said it shared personal data with two firms called Complementics and Predicio.

... Walter Harrison, co-founder of Complementics, said "Gravy is not authorized to share and has committed by contract that it will not share any data it receives from Complementics directly or indirectly with any U.S. government intelligence, immigration enforcement, or law enforcement agency." The company does still work with Gravy however...

In an email to NRK, Venntel said that "Venntel has not shared your data with ICE or CBP," referring specifically to the location data Venntel ultimately obtained from Gundersen's Android phone. It is not clear whether this is due to the data being sourced from a European-based phone, whether ICE or CBP did not specifically purchase access to data from that region, or some other technical reason. Venntel did not respond to Motherboard's request for comment.

...The supply chain also suggested a connection to X-Mode...