Democratic senators as well as civil rights lawyers are calling for legislation that would restrict U.S. law enforcement agencies’ ability to buy cellphone tracking devices. These tools follow people’s locations, as well as places they’ve previously been—and often sans search warrant.
“Fog Reveal,” a tool frequently used by police, was brought to light in an investigative piece by The Associated Press earlier this month. The device also came up in a Federal Trade Commission hearing three weeks ago.
Cops have been using “Fog Reveal” to examine billions of records from around 250 million mobile devices. It also is able to access geolocation data which establishes “patterns of life,” records about the company show.
“Fog Reveal,” which is distributed by Fog Data Science LLC in Virginia, has been used since 2018 in criminal investigations ranging from a homicide in Arkansas to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
Defense attorneys claim that since it’s hardly mentioned in court records, it makes it more difficult for them to defend their clients. Both the general public and panelists who participated in the Federal Trade Commission hearing said they were worried about how information from apps can be used to monitor someone.
Stacey Gray, the senior director for U.S. programs for the Future of Privacy Forum, explained: “In some cases, [the data is] being used to infer identity and cause direct harm to people in the real world, in the physical world and being repurposed for, as was mentioned earlier, law enforcement and national security purposes.”
“Fog Reveal” was made by two former Department of Homeland Security officials during the presidency of George W. Bush. Spokespeople from the company say it uses advertising identification numbers, which are taken from apps like Starbucks, Waze, Starbucks and countless others that target ads based on someone’s interests and movements and interests, per police emails. That data is then sold to companies like Fog.