US Senators seek IG probe of border agency’s warrantless use of phone location data

04:00  24 october  2020
04:00  24 october  2020 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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US Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has sent letters to the FCC and mobile carriers demanding an explanation as to why law enforcement agencies are permitted to track any US mobile phone without a court order. Senator Wyden sent official letters to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

American intelligence agencies quietly stopped the warrantless collection of US phone location data last year, according to a letter from the Office of the

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials who have used cellphone location data to track people inside the country without a warrant are refusing to tell members of Congress what gives them the legal right to do so, a group of Democratic senators said Friday.

a man standing in front of a building: Federal Triangle serves as headquarters for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other organizations. © Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images Federal Triangle serves as headquarters for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other organizations.

When people use any one of a broad assortment of weather, gaming and other apps, their location data is bundled and resold by companies such as Venntel to advertisers, commercial buyers — and, in recent months, federal agencies such as CBP, which have argued the data is a powerful tool for investigating crime.

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US Customs and Border Protection. Locations . Border Patrol Sectors.

The National Security Agency has a secret backdoor into its vast databases under a legal authority enabling it to search for US citizens' email and phone Senator Ron Wyden told the Guardian that the law provides the NSA with a loophole potentially allowing " warrantless searches for the phone calls

But the practice has raised alarms among lawmakers and privacy advocates, who argue that many people may not realize they’re giving away potentially sensitive information detailing their personal movements.

They also question whether the surveillance violates Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches, as well as a 2018 Supreme Court decision that found law enforcement authorities must obtain a warrant before gathering location data from Americans’ phones.

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Five Democratic senators on Friday asked that the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security investigate the practice, saying CBP had refused to provide any legal analysis defending the warrantless searches.

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Director of national intelligence confirms use of new legal rule. Data collected under 'Prism' and 'Upstream' These include Prism, which allows the agency to collect data from Google, Apple, Facebook Clapper did not say how many warrantless searches had been performed by the NSA.

Cellular location data could help authorities fight the coronavirus. But gaining access to this data , even amid a global pandemic, is made more Government efforts to track virus through phone location data complicated by privacy concerns. The Baidu Inc. map application displays the locations visited

“CBP is not above the law and it should not be able to buy its way around the Fourth Amendment,” senators Ron Wyden (Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Edward J. Markey (Mass.) and Brian Schatz (Hawaii) wrote to DHS inspector general Joseph V. Cuffari.

In a statement to The Washington Post, CBP asserted without explanation that the agency “may obtain access to commercially available information relevant to its border security mission.” It also said: “All CBP operations in which commercially available telemetry data may be used are undertaken in furtherance of CBP’s responsibility to enforce U.S. law at the border and in accordance with relevant legal, policy, and privacy requirements.”

Representatives of Cuffari’s office and Venntel, a Virginia-based government contractor, did not respond to requests for comment. CBP paid roughly $500,000 in August for a subscription to Venntel’s commercial database, federal contracts show.

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The agents did not ask her to unlock the phones , but took them for at least 10 minutes out of her view, she said, adding that she quickly became distraught. CBP has also claimed it has the authority to conduct warrantless searches of electronic devices at international border crossings, without

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America' s A 2005 court ruling judged that cell site location data – the nearest cell tower a phone was connected to – was also transactional data , and so could potentially fall under the

Hacked documents reveal sensitive details of expanding border surveillance

Advocates have cautioned, however, against the dangers of “surveillance creep,” in which the data is used for purposes far beyond its original use. CBP officials have said they’ve used the data to track people in areas far beyond the border and have not attempted to distinguish between the data of Americans and foreign nationals, a Wyden aide told The Post.

The geolocation information gathered by data brokers such as Venntel does not traditionally include a person’s name. But privacy advocates argue that the precision of the data makes it easy for a person to be identified.

The Internal Revenue Service has also used Venntel data to investigate potential crimes. The inspector general’s office of that agency has launched its own review.

ICE is tapping into a huge license-plate database, ACLU says, raising new privacy concerns about surveillance

The Trump administration has moved aggressively to track Americans using private databases and nationwide searches without seeking court approval.

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Personal data is any data that identifies you. This could be your name, address, email, voice, face, websites you have visited, or location data . To keep your personal data private, you should open questionable websites in Incognito mode.

You can easily access the location data on your phone , tablet, or PC. Other cellular companies that offer similar options include; Sprint, AT&T, and If you’re planning on secretly tracking someone’ s phone location in 2020, try one of the methods above. In my experience, the most effective one is

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have used facial recognition searches of driver’s license photos to identify and pursue potential suspects. They have also gained access to private databases containing billions of car location data points — taken from images captured by cameras on tow trucks, toll booths and stop lights — to map the movement of people who may be in the country illegally.

The growing scale and precision of government surveillance data has left Americans increasingly vulnerable to data breaches or misuse.

Hackers last year stole a large cache of sensitive files — including photos of drivers’ faces and license plates — from Perceptics, a government contractor that made the license-plate scanners used on vehicles crossing the U.S. borders. The hack was not reported to CBP until nearly three weeks after it was first discovered, when many of the stolen files had already been made freely available on the Web.

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