New Documents Expose the DHS Obtaining ‘336,000 Location Points’ from People’s Cell Phones

New data released by the American Civil Liberties Union, a liberal organization, appears to reveal that Big Government data-mining is taking place right beneath your nose.

The ACLU issued a report July 18 headlined, “New Records Detail DHS Purchase and Use of Vast Quantities of Cell Phone Location Data.” The report linked to records obtained from different agencies within the Department of Homeland Security that show “the millions of taxpayer dollars DHS used to buy access to cell phone location information.” Two “shadowy data brokers,” Venntel and Babel Street, sold the information to DHS, according to the records.  ACLU said it reviewed 6,168 pages of location records containing roughly 336,000 “location points obtained from people’s phones.”

During one three-day span in 2018, ACLU said, “the records contain around 113,654 location points — more than 26 location points per minute.” Adding another layer of concern, those records allegedly came “from just one area in the Southwestern United States, meaning it is just a small subset of the total volume of people’s location information available to the agency.”

Venntel sent marketing materials to DHS “explaining how the companyMore than 1.5 billion locations points are collected from more than 250 million mobile phones. Everyday,” ACLU said. [Emphasis added.]

Law enforcement could, in effect, use the data to “identify devices observed at places of interest” and “identify repeat visitors, frequented locations, pinpoint known associates, and discover pattern of life” according to a Venntel marketing brochure. 

ACLU said that the federal government can search DHS’s “massive trove” of location information to track “specific individuals or everyone in a particular area, learning details of our private activities and associations.”

Earlier this month, The Heritage Foundation filed a lawsuit against DHS for documents related to the agency’s contract with Babel Street. The company calls itself “The World’s Leading AI-Enabled Data-to-Knowledge Company.” 

DHS has a contract for the “Babel X” product, which “scrapes,” or retrieves and copies, data from online sources and “apps,” as Heritage said in a July 7 press release. Heritage quoted Babel Street founder Jeff Chapman’s 2017 comment to The Washington Post: “‘There are billions of smartphones on the planet. All you have to do is listen to them.’” 

It appears Big Brother – in the form of Big Government – has been doing exactly that. 

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