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[Slashdot] - CBP Refuses To Tell Congress How It's Tracking Americans Without a Warrant

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: U.S. Customs and Border Protection is refusing to tell Congress what legal authority the agency is following to use commercially bought location data to track Americans without a warrant, according to the office of Senator Ron Wyden. The agency is buying location data from Americans all over the country, not just in border areas. The lack of disclosure around why CBP believes it does not need a warrant to use the data, as well as the Department of Homeland Security not publishing a Privacy Impact Assessment on the use of such location information, has spurred Wyden and Senators Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Ed Markey, and Brian Schatz on Friday to ask the DHS Office of the Inspector General (DHS OIG) to investigate CBP's warrantless domestic surveillance of phones, and determine if CBP is breaking the law or engaging in abusive practices. The news highlights the increased use of app location data by U.S. government agencies. Various services take location data which is harvested from ordinary apps installed on peoples' phones around the world, repackages that, and sells access to law enforcement agencies so they can try to track groups of people or individuals. In this case, CBP has bought the location data from a firm called Venntel. "CBP officials confirmed to Senate staff that the agency is using Venntel's location database to search for information collected from phones in the United States without any kind of court order," the letter signed by Wyden and Warren, and addressed to the DHS OIG, reads. "CBP outrageously asserted that its legal analysis is privileged and therefore does not have to be shared with Congress. We disagree." As well as not obtaining court orders to query the data, CBP said it's not restricting its personnel to only using it near the border, the Wyden aide added. CBP is unable to tell what nationality a particular person is based only on the information provided by Venntel; but what the agency does know is that the Venntel data the agency is using includes the movements of people inside the United States, the Wyden aide said.

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