Because the information comes directly from your mobile phone, it can provide accurate location data even if your phone is spoofing GPS coordinates and changing its IP address. The document between the IRS and Venntel highlights why the IRS would want to use this technology and what for:
“This allows tracing and pattern-of-life analysis on locations of interesting criminal investigations, allowing investigators to trace locations of mobile devices even if a target is using anonymizing technologies like a proxy server, which is common in cyber investigations.”
The quest to stop the IRS from violating the Constitutional rights of American citizensSenators Ron Wyden and Elizabeth Warren first called on the Inspector general to investigate the IRS’s warrantless spying on location data earlier this year in June. Now, Motherboard has obtained the formal agreement between the IRS and Venntel which highlights that the IRS was allowed to query Venntel’s location database up to 12,000 times per month. While this emphasizes that the IRS wasn’t conducting widespread surveillance on the entire American population, it is clear that they were using this data in a targeted manner – which is still a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States.
Senator Wyden explained to Motherboard:
The sale highlights the issue of law enforcement agencies buying information, and in particular location data, that they would ordinarily need a warrant or court order to obtain.Other documents obtained as part of the same FOIA request detail the Secret Service's purchase of Babel Street's open source intelligence product.
“This contract makes clear that the IRS intended to use Venntel’s spying tool to identify specific smartphone users using data collected by apps and sold onwards to shady data brokers. The IRS would have needed a warrant to obtain this kind of sensitive information from AT&T or Google.”Now that the unconstitutional dealings between the IRS and Venntel have been laid out for the world to see, Senator Wyden plans to introduce legislation to stop it once and for all. Senator Wyden stated:
“The only reason the IRS went to Venntel instead was to buy their way around the 4th Amendment. I’ll be introducing legislation in the next few weeks to close this loophole and ensure that Americans rights are protected.”
When the legislation will be introduced remains to be seen but both the IRS and Venntel refused to comment to Motherboard about the ongoing fiasco.