1984 on a Budget: US Cops Using Affordable Tool to Keep Tabs on 250 Mln Phones, Non-Profit Reveals

© Photo : Electronic Frontier FoundationElectronic Frontier Foundation investigation of Fog, an inexpensive cellphone tracking tool used by US law enforcement.
Electronic Frontier Foundation investigation of Fog, an inexpensive cellphone tracking tool used by US law enforcement. - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.09.2022
The new revelations come against the background of a bevy of media reports on efforts by powerful state interests and corporations ranging from the Centers for Disease Control to TikTok to collect a broad range of personal and private information using electronic surveillance, with the only means of escape seemingly being to unplug.
‘Fog Reveal’, a low-cost tracking tool developed by Virginia-based private tech company Fog Data Science, has been used by over a dozen law enforcement agencies across the US to give cops access to the geolocation data of more than 250 million devices, digital privacy rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has revealed.
In a series of exposés published on its website, citing reams of company documents and records, EFF explained the tracking tool uses geolocation data collected by data brokers from cellphones’ unique ad IDs – the random string of numbers and letters attached to every device and seen by the apps and websites that smartphone users access.
Fog Reveal allows authorities to search devices’ location data going back years at a time, allowing them to forgo pesky warrant requirements (i.e. the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution).

Materials released by EFF include Fog Data Science marketing materials for police and sheriffs departments, with the company boasting that its product provides authorities with the “timelines, travels, last known geographical locations and patterns of life” of suspects, persons of interest, or anyone cops happen to be interested in for any reason.

Law enforcement can get access to the information for a low buy-in rate of as little as $7,500 per year, with the company also offering a free trial before you purchase the program.
EFF technologist Bennett Cyphers, the lead author of the digital privacy group’s investigation into Fog, warned there is nothing to stop law enforcement from using the technology for unscrupulous purposes, up to and including the tracking of political dissidents.
“This data could be used to search for and identify everyone who visited a Planned Parenthood [office] on a specific day, or everyone who attended a protest against police violence. Fog already has extensively traced innocent people’s movements just to close its sales pitches, and local police have cast wide nets for minor crimes,” he said.
“The potential for abuse is staggering, and from what we’ve found so far, there are no rules protecting our constitutional rights,” Cyphers added.
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A Fog Data Science spokesman assured AP that the company’s product is designed merely to “fill a gap for underfunded and understaffed departments,” and to assist technologically deficient law enforcement agencies on “the front lines of trafficking and missing persons cases.” The company also insists that it does not have access to people’s private information, but only anonymized, commercially available data with no restrictions on use.
EFF called such claims “bogus,” pointing to the ease with which law enforcement could piece together information about persons of interest to determine where they live, work, frequent, etc to identify them.
EFF has counted at least 18 police departments, highway patrols and sheriff’s offices spanning 13 states among Fog’s customers, from cops in California, New York, Texas and Florida, to the US Marshals Service, a federal law enforcement agency.
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