Inside One Of US GOvernments ‘Location Harvesting’ Contractors, Which Tracks ‘Hundreds Of Millions’ Of Phones For Profit $$$
Source: Zerohedge/Wall Street Journal
By Byron Tau
Aug. 7, 2020 10:00 am ET
WASHINGTON—A small U.S. company with ties to the U.S. defense and intelligence communities has embedded its software in numerous mobile apps, allowing it to track the movements of hundreds of millions of mobile phones world-wide, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Anomaly Six LLC a Virginia-based company founded by two U.S. military veterans with a background in intelligence, said in marketing material it is able to draw location data from more than 500 mobile applications, in part through its own software development kit, or SDK, that is embedded directly in some of the apps. An SDK allows the company to obtain the phone’s location if consumers have allowed the app containing the software to access the phone’s GPS coordinates.
App publishers often allow third-party companies, for a fee, to insert SDKs into their apps. The SDK maker then sells the consumer data harvested from the app, and the app publisher gets a chunk of revenue. But consumers have no way to know whether SDKs are embedded in apps; most privacy policies don’t disclose that information. Anomaly Six says it embeds its own SDK in some apps, and in other cases gets location data from other partners.
Anomaly Six is a federal contractor that provides global-location-data products to branches of the U.S. government and private-sector clients. The company told The Wall Street Journal it restricts the sale of U.S. mobile phone movement data only to nongovernmental, private-sector clients.
Numerous agencies of the U.S. government have concluded that mobile data acquired by federal agencies from advertising is lawful. Several law-enforcement agencies are using such data for criminal-law enforcement, the Journal has reported, while numerous U.S. military and intelligence agencies also acquire this kind of data.
Many private-sector companies in the advertising and marketing world buy and sell geolocation data, sometimes reselling it to government agencies or contractors. But the direct collection of such data by a business closely linked to U.S. national security agencies is unusual.
Anomaly Six was founded by defense-contracting veterans who worked closely with government agencies for most of their careers and built a company to cater in part to national-security agencies, according to court records and interviews.
Asif Khan, a marketing expert and founder of the Location Based Marketing Association, a trade group representing advertising and marketing companies who deal in location data, said the government acquisition of consumer location data has been a longstanding issue for the industry. He said app-makers should be more transparent with consumers about how the data may be used once it is collected.
“You could argue that the government has the right, just like any commercial entity, to buy the data, if the data is available from a commercial supplier,” said Mr. Khan. “But you also need to be able to clearly say ‘this data could be used by government.’”
“I think the average consumer doesn’t have a clue,’ he said. For the rest of the story click HERE!
Wow. I had no idea how widespread the spying went across ALL apps it seems. YOU are the commodity being traded, you and all of your data and no one seems to know how its being used or who all is buying it. Of course the government can and is a client/customer! It’s the perfect end run around what’s left of the constitution, which isn’t much at this point.
The only real way to protect yourself is use as few apps as possible or don’t use a smart phone at all! I’m seriously considering going back to a dumb phone with calls and text only as my new iPhone has a mind of its own at times.