Earlier this month, we reported that private data brokers harvest location data from hundreds of mobile apps and then sell it to government agencies including state and local law enforcement, ICE, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense. New documents obtained by the ACLU through an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit reveal the extent of this data collection.
According to TechCrunch, in a review of over 6,000 DHS records, the ACLU discovered around 336,000 location points across the continent lifted from people's phones. Back in 2018, Customs and Border Patrol obtained data containing some 113,654 location points collected in southwestern states over a three-day period. That amounts to more than 26 location points per minute.
The bulk of this data came from a private company – Venntel. The company collects and aggregates location data from hundreds of different smartphone apps, aggregates it, and sells it to the feds. According to EFF, current and former Venntel clients include the IRS, the DHS, along with its subsidiaries ICE and CBP, the DEA, and the FBI. The Federal Procurement Database reveals that the DHS paid at least $2 million for location data products from Venntel. A heavily redacted document obtained from the FBI shows the agency paid $22,000 for a single license to the Venntel portal.