What Is Fog Data Science? Why Are Surveillance Companies Dangerous?

This article is part of EFF’s research on location data brokers and Fog Data Science.be sure to check Location Data Brokers Issues Page.

An EFF survey of public records from dozens of state and local law enforcement agencies reveals widely used mass surveillance techniques. Americans are National Security Agency (NSA), American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and even domestically focused Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has illegally wiped out vast amounts of data about people living in the United States, but what about state and local police? Provides easy and often warrant-free access to accurate and continuous geolocation of hundreds of millions of unsuspecting Americans. This information is collected through smartphone apps and aggregated by shadow data brokers.

What is fog data science?

Fog Data Science is a company that buys raw location data originally collected by the applications people use every day on their smartphones and tablets. These applications collect location data about where your phone is at any given time and sell it to data brokers. Data brokers often sell to advertisers and marketers looking to serve ads based on location. There he will be swooped by Fog. According to documents produced by the company, Fog buys “billions of data points” from “250 million devices” across the United States. Second, for a subscription fee that many law enforcement agencies are willing to pay, Fog gives you access to a large, searchable database of where people are.

This means the police can open the fog map and do many things. They can draw a box and see identifiers representing all devices within that geographic area in a particular time frame. It can also be tracked over months or years. Fog does not require officers to obtain a warrant or other court order before obtaining this location data (unlike telecommunications companies that hold customer location data and typically require a court order). ). Similarly, many police departments using Fog do not require officers to obtain warrants.

This means police have the ability to accurately track the daily movements of hundreds of millions of Americans, sometimes without a warrant. This is mass surveillance and often no judicial oversight.

Is this allowed?

In a nutshell, no. The Fourth Amendment protects us from unjustified searches and seizures.of Carpenter v. United States (2018), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment requires police to obtain a warrant before seizing historical location data, called “cell site location information,” from phone companies. made a judgment. The Supreme Court reasoned that “dramatic changes in digital technology have made it possible to track not only Carpenter’s location, but everyone else’s location, over years rather than short periods of time.” Did. This same reason is not only when police seize accurate and persistent location data from telephone companies. get the police to buy it From data brokers like Fog. Purchasing this data without warranty also violates the First Amendment. Because police can use it to identify people participating in protests, it can deter people from participating. Additionally, warrantless purchases of this data violate privacy laws such as: California Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

Some police departments that use Fog require officers to obtain warrants. Records show that Fogg’s representatives distributed template warrants to the police. However, even with a warrant, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits general, non-specific searches of the location data of anyone who happens to be at a particular location. For this reason, the courtgeofencewarrant It violates the Fourth Amendment against service providers asking for location data about everyone anywhere. Additionally, Fog significantly lowers the practical barriers that adequately limit the use of wire surveillance by law enforcement. Once approved, law enforcement clients will have immediate and repeatable access to her Fog data. When police send warrants to service her providers for a customer’s data, it could slow the process and require more scrutiny.

What are the dangers of this kind of program?

The use of Fog by police is a major blow to civil liberties in the United States. With the click and drag of a mouse, police can check the devices of every protester, track them to their homes, and bring those exercising their constitutionally protected right to protest to greater heights. It can be subject to a lot of surveillance, harassment and retaliation. Police can also track people with devices installed inside immigration attorneys’ offices, women’s clinics, or mental health facilities, for example. Police could easily use this tool to monitor covert rendezvous between journalists and whistleblowers. It goes without saying that law enforcement officers often abuse such powers for nefarious reasons.

This type of surveillance also makes people who live and work in heavily guarded areas more likely to become suspicious of the police. Whether you’re next to a robbed pizzeria or taking a coffee break near graffiti, police can easily spot your device near a crime scene and recommend increased surveillance. increase.

Fog claims that their products are built on data voluntarily provided by people. But people weren’t willing to give their geolocation data to Fog or the police. Rather, I passed it, for example, to a weather app so I could see if it would rain in my town today. When you downloaded an app, you may have clicked on boxes intended to give you various so-called “consents,” but no one rational thinks this means that the app will track your every move. Unpredictable. The app developer sells this confidential information to his data broker. , and the police eventually buy it.

Fog also claims that its products take privacy seriously, as they do not contain personally identifiable information such as a person’s name or phone number. it’s not. Police looking at the dot representing you on the map may not know your phone number or name. Ten years ago, researchers discovered that: 4 spatiotemporal points were enough Identifies 95% of 1.5 million people whose movements are tracked in a 15-month battery of mobile phone movement data. The claim that the location data was supposedly “anonymized” very i doubt it.

Does Fog have my data? How can I stop it?

It is very difficult for Fog, and therefore the police, to determine if they have access to your data. If you’ve downloaded a third-party app on your smartphone and granted it access to your location data in the last five years, then I think the answer is yes.

If you are a California resident, you may submit a “Right to Know” request under the California Consumer Privacy Act to Venntel, a data source for Fog. this link.

what can you do about it? The most effective way is to limit data sharing on mobile devices. First, you can disable ad tracking and mobile advertising identifiers. This allows data brokers to associate tranches of data with individual devices.Here are the steps Android and iOSSecond, limit the number of applications on your phone that allow location data collection. Some applications may require GPS data, such as an application that provides driving directions, while others (such as a daily cute dog photo or a chess app) recommend that you revoke access to that data. Please consider.

But the greatest thing we can all do is put pressure on Congress and states to protect our privacy. It is the responsibility of legislators to act swiftly to prohibitWe also need an inclusive consumer data privacy law,and Prohibition of online behavioral advertisingto reduce the supply of purchasable location data.

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