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Privacy Communications Government Network United States Technology

The Tech Used To Monitor Inmate Calls Is Able To Track Civilians Too (thedailybeast.com) 35

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Daily Beast: Securus Technologies' programs are used in thousands of prisons and detention centers nationwide to track calls to inmates, but the company's offerings are also capable of tracking and geolocating people's cellphones without any warrant or oversight, The New York Times reports. Securus obtains location information though data from major cellphone providers the same way marketers do. It also advertises the technology to law-enforcement agencies as a tool to find murder suspects, missing people, and those at-large -- but the feature can easily be abused for access to millions of cellphone users.

One Missouri sheriff used the service at least 11 times between 2014 and 2017, and secretly tracked state highway patrol members and a judge, prosecutors said. While the company said it "required customers to upload a legal document" to certify the location lookup, the Federal Communications Commission claims Securus did not "conduct any review of surveillance requests" -- giving law enforcement tracking power without verification of approval or oversight.

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The Tech Used To Monitor Inmate Calls Is Able To Track Civilians Too

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  • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Saturday May 12, 2018 @09:05AM (#56600360) Homepage Journal

    I've read this story in multiple places, and the bit that always hits me, that nobody seems to even be concerned about is this:

    Securus obtains location information though data from major cellphone providers the same way marketers do.

    So... we have a problem with law enforcement being able to geolocate (and, OK, I think there are some legitimate reasons to feel there should be restrictions on that, I get it, I'm not a fascist, but at the same time it's one area most people would agree that if law enforcement has a good reason, they should be able to geolocate a cellphone) but we don't give a shit about marketing people having the exact same data. Oh no, that doesn't bother us at all. We just casually mention that this was the original intent of the data collection, without actually in any way being bothered about it.

    WHAT. THE. FUCK?

    • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Saturday May 12, 2018 @09:08AM (#56600374) Journal
      There are some special rules that law enforcement has to abide by, and rightly so. With that said, if marketers can simply access this information, is law enforcement allowed to do so as well or do they need a warrant? And if they do, why are the Securus execs not being tracked by this tech in their very own jail cell right now?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Mainly, it's because marketers are a blight on society and are annoying as fuck, yes it's true, but law enforcements ARRESTS AND KILLS thousands of Americans every year. A little higher standard is need here.
      • This just tells me that there needs to be a much higher standard for marketers and an even higher one than that for LEO.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Too bad it can't backtrack the caller(s) and obtain absolute verification of the origination of a call.

      Then, the FCC and other Federal agencies would be able to roll up all the spam callers, the faked IRS Robo-Callers, and the assholes from "Account Services", and then put _them_ in prison without access to any kind of telephone, either wired or wireless...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I was about to ask "how do they get that data in the first place?", and "the same way marketeers do" is a pretty bad answer. Neither should be able to. This is something to slap the telcos down for.

    • You just said EXACTLY what I was about to post... almost word for word. :D

      mnem
      Thanks; now I can get back to being a "productive" member of society again! :P

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, so? When's the last time a marketer tracked you down and shot you in the back? And then lied about it?

    • If anybody was still wondering why the GDPR is a thing... stuff like this is why.

    • The method isn't very clear, but if marketers can get a phones location that's a massive problem that's not been reported before. Carriers are selling that info, or Apple and Google? That's horrifying if that's what's happening, but its not clear. A few apps selling non-anonymous location info sure, but that wouldn't provide that many people.
      • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
        This has been mentioned on Slashdot before, at least in the comments.

        Basically, many app developers use frameworks to build their apps. These framework developers can dip into data from multiple apps and use that data to locate people. They can also identify people by geo-fencing the phones at night, when most people are home asleep, and correlate that to tie an identity to a phone.

        refences:
        https://www.otherlevels.com/bl... [otherlevels.com]
        https://gizmodo.com/your-favor... [gizmodo.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward

    .. the same way marketers do

    there's the problem. cell phone (and other communication or service) providers shouldn't be selling or giving the data away... period not without a valid and authenticated order from a judge. the data providers collect while providing the services they do should not itself be a profit center.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      We lost that battle late in the last century. One of the telecoms bills changed the ownership of call metadata from the party placing the call to the phone company.

  • Inmates' phones are inherently different from civilians!
    Aren't they?

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Saturday May 12, 2018 @10:56AM (#56600594)

    ... very easy to track law enforcement and undercover agents with this technology.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The article sounds as if the geo-location data appears like magic. The crux privacy is the source of the data leak. Where does this information come from, and who's providing it?

    The best I can gather is that people are signing up with Securus then agree to provide geo-location data to marketers, but this also can be obtained by law enforcement. But.. I can't really be sure... it's just not a well written article and it isn't clear.

  • The linked article is based on a NYTimes article which is much more informative: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/0... [nytimes.com] ALL US cellphone location data is being aggregated and resold.

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