Who’s using your location data?
Marketing databases contain location records for millions of cell phones.
Companies, organizations and the government can buy data-based access to info on you.
How does the government get access? Agencies such as Venntel, Inc., the Virginia-based contractor, obtains marketing data containing cell phone locations and sells access to it via licenses.
A Feb. 2020 report in the Wall Street Journal said the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), bought $190,000 worth of licenses from Venntel in 2018. These licenses grant access to data with anonymized locations. The IRS Criminal Investigation Unit (IRS CI) bought licenses in 2017 and 2018.
Organizations like Human Rights Watch are worried. Law requires agencies to get court orders and warrants to obtain this information if they do it directly from cell phone providers. Licenses through Venntel doesn’t carry the same legal requirements.
Remember, government agencies aren’t the only ones with access. Marketing agencies obtain this data. Recently PR and marketing agency TOP Data used its cell phone location data to look at covid-19. They wanted to see how reopening and ending stay at home orders correlated with cases. See the graph for South Carolina, here: https://topagency.com/report/social-distancing-adherence-report/#south-c... . The firm compared March 2020 to March 2019 data. They determined that person-to-person interactions were down 78% March 26, 2020.
For instructions to turn location data off on your cell phone, pick up this week’s Fish Wrapper, grab last week’s Chronicle or read last week’s Tech Talk online: www.lexingtonchronicle.com/lifestyle/tech-talk-12 .
Next week: Was GPS giant Garmin hit with ransomware?