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4 Mär 2021

Joseph Cox, VICE

USA: Military unit that conducts drone strikes bought location data from ordinary apps

A division of the Iowa Air National Guard that carries out overseas intelligence missions, performs reconnaissance, and conducts strikes with Reaper drones recently bought access to location data harvested from ordinary apps installed on peoples' smartphones, Motherboard has found. The tool, called Locate X, lets users search by a specific area and see which devices were present in that location at a particular point in time.

The news shows the continued use of commercial location data by the armed forces. The Iowa National Guard declined to say what it was using the data for.

...Babel Street did not respond to a request for comment.

According to a Department of Homeland Security document, Babel Street "re-hosts" location data obtained by Venntel, another government contractor. Venntel sells a similar location data product to various law enforcement agencies, including ICE, the IRS, and CBP, that the company builds by collating information from ordinary apps.

... Now with the revelation that Babel Street's dataset is based on Venntel's, the issue of deanonyimation may also apply to Locate X. This shows that the pipeline of location data from apps, through contractors, and eventually to government agencies is controlled to a higher degree by Venntel than previously known... Venntel did not respond to a request for comment.

Part of the following timelines

Sales of cellphone app data to US govt. agencies raise privacy & usage concerns

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