police iphone

USA: Police use private location data from Waze and Starbucks

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A brand new report says US police are using location data from hundreds of millions of smartphones with apps like Waze… Problem, it’s done so secretly that even judges and lawyers can’t see it. to this information.

Datas private semi-private

It’s go again ! For several years, we have been saying loud and clear that you have to take care of your personal data on the web, whether on a smartphone, computer or any connected object.

When you accept cookies or browse a site or an application, there are always some traces of your visit. The recovered data is sometimes (often) resold to companies who pay a large sum of money in exchange for this information.

In the USA, a recent report once again warns of this kind of practice. According to this long report published by the Associated Press, billions of location records recovered from more than 250 million smartphones have been analyzed by some twenty US government agencies. Private data purchased upstream by a company known as Fog Data Science.

police iphone

Where this poses a huge problem is that it is mentioned that its use was secret, so much so that the lawyers or judges present in cases related to this data were not even aware of it. The lawyers denounce a threat to the fairness of the judicial process.

From the Associated Press report:

Local law enforcement agencies, from suburban Southern California to rural North Carolina, use an obscure cellphone tracking tool, sometimes without a search warrant, that gives them the power to track people’s movements back months, according to public records and internal emails obtained by The Associated Press.


Police used “Fog Reveal” to search hundreds of billions of records from 250 million mobile devices and mined the data to create location analytics known to law enforcement as “patterns.” of life,” according to thousands of pages of company records.


The company was developed by two former senior Department of Homeland Security officials under ex-President George W. Bush. It relies on advertising ID numbers, which Fog officials say are pulled from popular mobile apps like Waze, Starbucks and hundreds of others that target ads based on movement and movement. interests of a person, according to police emails. This information is then sold to companies like Fog.


What sets Fog Reveal apart from other cell phone tracking technologies used by law enforcement is that it tracks devices by their Advertising IDs, unique numbers assigned to each device. These numbers do not contain the phone user’s name, but can be traced to homes and workplaces to help police conduct lifestyle analyses.

Originally, advertising identifiers do not identify the owner of a smartphone, but with the additional data provided by Fog Data Science, it has become a breeze. On the side of the applications concerned, we can cite a few examples such as Waze or Starbucks who also declare that they have no idea about the sale of their application data.

If it is difficult to know what is legal or not in this business, it demonstrates once again that the “private” side has a hard time remaining so once it becomes connected. Recall that Apple has launched several new tools so that its users give the least private data to websites and applications, in particular the pop-up window when first launching an app which allows you to refuse to be tracked since iOS 14.5 .

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