Science and Technology

A secret tool lets police conduct mass surveillance using app data

By Andrew Orr Apple Insider

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Police from around the country have been using data culled from thousands of apps for suspect surveillance, often without search warrants.

The tool, known as “Fog Reveal” uses advertising identifaction numbers from apps such as Starbucks and Waze. It’s sold by Fog Data Science LLC to target ads based on a person’s location and interests.

Law enforcement agencies from all levels of government have been using Fog Reveal. The report says it’s rarely mentioned in court records, and sometimes not at all. Defense attorneys say this makes it difficult to defend their clients in cases that involve the tool.

Fog Data Science

Fog Data Science was formed by two former high-ranking officials in the Deparment of Homeland Security under former President George W. Bush. It purchases raw geolocation data from around 250 million devices collected by tens of thousands of apps, then aggregates it into a searchable database containing “billions of data points.”

Fog then provides access into this database to law enforcement as a subscription that can start at $7,500 per year. The company claims the data is anonymized, saying it has no way of linking it back to specific devices or owners.

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