Cops Wanted to Keep Mass Surveillance App Secret

upnorth

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Jul 27, 2015
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Much is known about how the federal government leverages location data by serving warrants to major tech companies like Google or Facebook to investigate crime in America. However, much less is known about how location data influences state and local law enforcement investigations. It turns out that's because many local police agencies intentionally avoid mentioning the under-the-radar tech they use—sometimes without warrants—to monitor private citizens.

As one Maryland-based sergeant wrote in a department email, touting the benefit of "no court paperwork" before purchasing the software, "The success lies in the secrecy." This week, an investigation from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Associated Press—supported by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting—has made public what could be considered local police's best-kept secret. Their reporting revealed the potentially extreme extent of data surveillance of ordinary people being tracked and made vulnerable just for moving about small-town America.
Reports showed how police in nearly two dozen agencies—one record shows the total figure could possibly be up to 60—use Google Maps-like tech called Fog Reveal. Licensed by Fog Data Science, Fog Reveal gives state and local police power to surveil what the company's marketing materials claimed in 2019 amounts to "hundreds of billions of records from 250 million mobile devices."
"Fog does not require police officers to obtain a warrant or other court order before acquiring this location data."
 

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