Americans have lately been learning that the apps they use to check whether they need an umbrella, or follow their favorite sports team, or hurl one animated animal at another for points, are sucking up their location data and selling it. Now it turns out that it’s not only advertising companies and other private entities who end up buying this information en masse from brokers. The U.S. government is doing it, too.
The Wall Street Journal wrote last week that federal agencies have purchased access to a virtual trove that charts the movements of millions of citizens’ cellphones from a company called Venntel. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its components are reportedly harnessing this data for immigration enforcement: searching for activity in unexpected places to pin down smuggling rings, or detecting individuals who may have entered the country illegally. (Spending records indicate that the Drug Enforcement Administration paid $25,000 to Venntel in 2018. The Justice Department told us the DEA does not “comment on contracting matters.”)