Yikes! This scares me – US DoD buying location data

Bloomberg pointed to this Vice article and it scares me at a deep fundamental level around privacy and personal safety. The article is long and a bit technical, and if you choose NOT to read it, do this at least: manage your location data as if it were the keys to your life (it is!).

Here’s the gist, quote: “Through public records, interviews with developers, and technical analysis, Motherboard uncovered two separate, parallel data streams that the U.S. military uses, or has used, to obtain location data. One relies on a company called Babel Street, which creates a product called Locate X. U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), a branch of the military tasked with counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and special reconnaissance, bought access to Locate X to assist on overseas special forces operations. The other stream is through a company called X-Mode, which obtains location data directly from apps, then sells that data to contractors, and by extension, the military.” (bold mine)

It seems that DoD is focusing on Muslims and states that this is only for international activities – not domestic – really? – Here’s DoD response that is supposed to make us feel better, quote: “In a statement, Navy Cmdr. Tim Hawkins, a U.S. Special Operations Command spokesperson, confirmed the Locate X purchase, and added “Our access to the software is used to support Special Operations Forces mission requirements overseas. We strictly adhere to established procedures and policies for protecting the privacy, civil liberties, constitutional and legal rights of American citizens.”

And just in case you were curious if other government agencies are buying location data, quote: “In March, tech publication Protocol first reported that U.S. law enforcement agencies such as Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were using Locate X. Motherboard then obtained an internal Secret Service document confirming the agency’s use of the technology. Some government agencies, including CBP and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), have also purchased access to location data from another vendor called Venntel.”

If it’s not enough for your own government to spy on you using your location data, think about foreign adversaries, quote: “In my opinion, it is practically certain that foreign entities will try to leverage (and are almost certainly actively exploiting) similar sources of private platform user data. I think it would be naïve to assume otherwise,” Mark Tallman, assistant professor at the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, told Motherboard in an email.”

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