This is the biggest privacy scandal hardly anyone is talking about

“We are in the midst of a major and worrying data privacy scandal — but you probably haven’t heard about it,” Mike Peterson writes for iDropNews. “To put it in the simplest terms possible: Law enforcement entities can figure out exactly where you are, at this very minute, using your smartphone. All without your knowledge.”

“This is because the largest telecom companies in the U.S. — AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint — have been selling your real-time location data to a little-known company called LocationSmart,” Peterson writes. “Another firm, Securus Technologies, obtains and uses that location data for its own purposes.”

Securus Technologies offer a “service to law enforcement that can locate nearly any phone in the U.S. using cell tower data. In a public document, Securus even boasts that it can do so ‘within seconds,'” Peterson writes. “The service, obviously, raises some serious privacy concerns — particularly as the tracking can be done with little legal oversight, the NYT reported. While LocationSmart requires a person’s explicit consent before tracking their location, that requirement goes out the window if a search warrant is issued.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote last week, “Until Americans wake up about privacy, and demand stringent laws, these myriad risks due to blatant data theft will continue.”

SEE ALSO:
Website flaw exposed most U.S. cellphones’ real-time locations – May 19, 2018

25 Comments

  1. The little fact you leave until literally the last 12 words of the story — “that requirement goes out the window if a search warrant is issued” — makes all the difference.

    A search warrant requires (in theory) probable cause and a judge to sign off on the request. It’s not like I can simply type your name into a database and locate you. You DO see the difference, right?

    1. Your (in theory) statement is correct but your assumption that the person doing the typing of your name into a database to locate you is doing it legally is worrisome. There are persons with capabilities who use them illegally. Never assume.

    2. You should be concerned that this company exists to sell your private location data. Also company purposefully put out a crappy API that allowed anyone to easily bypass permissions.

      You wireless carrier has sold you out.

      “LocationSmart is able to obtain accurate geolocation data on nearly any phone in the US because it buys that data from major US wireless carriers, including T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. Though wireless carriers aren’t allowed to provide location data to the government, they can sell that data to businesses.”

      1. The companies mentioned in this article have also been hacked. People other than law enforcement have been able to make requests and get location data. Also, the warrant requirement is what makes it legal. Is there any evidence the law is being followed here? Do you think Securus et al would refuse a request from law enforcement when law enforcement is paying them? “Show us the warrant!” Yeah, right.

      2. On T-Mobile you will find yourself without cell service far more often than on Verizon or AT&T. If I can’t connect to them, then they cannot locate me, right? So, get T-Mobile…you may not be able to make a phone call, but we won’t know where you are when you are not doing it.

    3. There are numerous ways you can be tracked using a cell phone. Cell triangulation is one, and GPS location is another, and they work whether your phone is on or off, as long as it has a power supply. To think this is not abused is at best naive.

      Many jurisdictions allow police to get location data without a search warrant. They just have to show that the data contains “specific and articulable facts” related to a case.

      No one knows how many requests are being made but it is safe to suspect that it is in the millions.

      The Obama administration says that as a mobile phone user YOU HAVE NO REASONABLE EXPECTATION OF PRIVACY. Obama never met a privacy invasion he didn’t embrace.

      http://www.volokh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/DOJ-cell-site.pdf

      1. There have been some cell phones found to ‘phone home’ GPS location data, even when they’re “Off”. The iPhone was NOT found to be one of them. Just be sure it’s actually off, not merely in standby mode.

        Another strategy is to toss you cell device into a Faraday cage. You’d have to be sure the ‘cage’ doesn’t leak the EM frequencies your phone shares. It’s also a good idea to ground Faraday cages in order the EM radiation can be redirected into the ground. (Figuring out the best Faraday cage is up to you. It’s not necessarily ‘tin foil’, aka aluminum foil).

      2. So you’re asserting that cellphone tower triangulation and GPS tracking actively work when the cellphone is powered off?

        Just checking: What color is the sky on your planet?

        1. I believe thetheloniousmac is referring to the trickle charge still being consumed by the device to detect the power button (among other things). There are some that believe that the GPS and/or cell antennae are also being provided some power allowing them to still work. The only way to prevent this is to completely remove the battery and discharge the capacitors on the device, the former which till recently was easily done by users with devices using removable batteries.

  2. Does it really matter – apparently no one cares about privacy as they put Alexa and Google speakers in their home that listens to every word and sends to their respected home companies.. People are fools sometimes.

    1. Not a defense of Amazon, or Google, just the truth. They don’t listen until someone speaks the wake word.
      It’s a specific Siri feature of not understanding even when listening. Security advantage goes to Siri.

  3. You gotta love a government that let’s crap like this go on until people complain enough for action to be taken. Just look at net neutrality and anyone can see the gov has long ago sold out to big business.

    By the people of the people and FOR the people. That sentence alone should land 1/3 of gov in jail for not protecting the public

    1. Private companies are doing license plate and facial recognition and you are already no doubt in their systems and don’t even know it.

      It isn’t just the government.

  4. As whistleblower Edward Snowden pointed out, the US government has been unconstitutionally spying on We The People for many years. Their tools are plentiful.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Snowden

    Among the Man-In-The-Middle tools available to law enforcement is the Harris Stingray. The Police don’t need to grab records from your cell service provider if they have one of these things working within your cell phone area.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stingray_phone_tracker

    I’ll note that if law enforcement use information in court that was obtained without a legal warrant, it will be thrown out of court. The Fourth Amendment lives! Just be sure you have a decent lawyer who comprehends this fact and will press the point in the courtroom.

    1. But off they get proof of you breaking the law using illegal technology, they can hide the means of discovery and claim to have found it by other means so they can nail you- essentially self-incrimination without your knowledge.

      Our government lies to us, cheats on the law, bends the rules to their own advantage and it happens when Republicans are in power and when Democrats are in power. Do not be fooled- neither Ms Clinton or Mr Trump were or are your buddy in these matters.

      The Money Party rules in D.C. and it is neither Blue or Red.

      1. No, again there has to be a legal, bring-it-to-court warrant, no matter the source. But I get your point in that they can obfuscate the source of the collected data. That’s entirely legal. It’s the warrant that’s the core of the matter.

        Having said that, in cases where no warrant was evident, the source of the data is irrelevant. It’s inadmissible and it’s thrown out. However, your lawyer has to press this case in the courtroom. A stupid lawyer will miss the boat and effectively let you go to jail despite law enforcement breaking the law.

        The Money Party rules in D.C. and it is neither Blue or Red.

        EXACTLY. But we humans are masters at self-delusion. I consider the 2016 presidential election to have offered the worst choices in my lifetime. It was an abomination in which WE ALL LOSE no matter who won. Sick shite.

  5. In my mind private companies collecting and holding private data on people without their consent is nothing less than digital stalking. If you followed someone around and recorded everything they did you could be hauled into court and rightly so. Why is it Ok for a for profit company to do so by digital means without your expressed consent- not a click on something buried in a EULA.

    Further, the Carrier/ISPs should be protecting your privacy instead of monetizing it.

    1. The ‘tracking’ discussed here involves having a connected device on your person. Expect EULAs to state that “You will be tracked in many different ways, not limited to …” The only real way to eliminate tracking a user’s location via device is to not have the device in the first place. For most users the said device is a luxury, not a necessity.

  6. Government is not the problem. Federal or state politicians are mostly just lap-dogs of the ultra-rich… doing only what their masters want. The rich getting what they want is the problem. Government policy is almost totally guided by that.

    If government acted like what they supposedly are – the people’s employees – things would be very different.

  7. If you are worried about tracking, then you don’t carry a cell phone, period.

    If you carry and turn it off and put it in a faraday pouch, that’s great until you forget and leave it on. If you figure you’ll only use it once in awhile, that is when people will no doubt locate you.

    Then comes the autos with WiFi & built in emergency cell call ability and license plates along with the automatic license plate scanner vehicles running all over this country (the repo-men love them.)

    If you have that line of work to where you need to subvert all that, I hope you are damn well paid, or you just choose to move to Norfolk Island.

    Whew!

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