In January 2021, an unclassified memo revealed that the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), a military-intelligence unit of the U.S. government, buys huge amounts of commercially available smartphone data and uses it to spy on Americans and track their movement history. By using publicly disclosed data, the DIA — and other agencies — can circumvent laws around warrants for requesting location data from phone companies, which are supposed to safeguard personal information.
This practice had been going on for over two and a half years prior to the memo’s release, and is now often used by the Department of Homeland Security, the Internal Revenue Service and other agencies. While the focus in the past was on the government and how access to this type of data can be used to jeopardize the privacy of American citizens and harm Constitution-granted privacy rights, little was publicly known about individuals and companies that supply such data to agencies and anyone able to fit the bill. Enter Twitter, Zignal Labs and Anomaly Six. An amazing, eye-opening piece by The Intercept alleges how, when working in unison, these companies can track not only your Twitter
posts and usernames, but also your past and present locations — reportedly up to a point of accuracy of several feet. In the article, it’s shown how Anomaly Six presented its pitch to Zignal Labs, proposing the following workflow: Anomaly Six would supply its “unmatched” GPS tracking capabilities. Zignal Labs would then use its tech stack to analyze Twitter’s data firehose, which provides the company with a torrent of data, consisting of every tweet posted in real time. This type of analysis would help Zignal Labs and their clients discern not only who tweeted what, but also who accompanied them at the tim …