Privacy on user's smartphones is not safe, no matter what they do.
Government surveillance might be virtually expected by this point, however, there is a robust legal system to deal with cops surveilling citizens. Some law enforcement agencies are supposed to get a warrant and serve that t0 cellphone companies, who then provide the data to them.
But, according to a New York Times report, a company that primarily deals with prison phone systems has leveraged a data-gathering service offered by phone carriers to allow cops to track any cell phone number with no legal checks in place to stop it being abused.
According to the same report, a former sheriff of Mississippi County, Missouri, used a service known as Securus to surveil targets' cell phones, including a judge and other police officers.
Securus used a data system that cell phone companies typically offer to marketers who want to micro-target consumers based on data, including their location. But in this case, Securus tapped into the system and offers its subscribers virtually uncontrolled access to nationwide location tracking.
The New York Times claims that Securus, primarily known for its prison phone services, offers location tracking to its law enforcement and prison clients as an additional service.
The company cited examples, like helping a drug rehab centre find a patient who left, as a reason for having the system. However, it doesn’t vet requests to ensure that a warrant or other legal instrument has been issued for the tracking; instead, it makes the user tick a box saying that their tracking is all above-board.
"Securus is neither a judge nor a district attorney, and the responsibility of ensuring the legal adequacy of supporting documentation lies with our law enforcement customers and their counsel," a Securus spokesman said in a statement to the New York Times. "Securus offers services only to law enforcement and corrections facilities, and not all officials at a given location have access to the system," the spokesman told the newspaper.
It is quite scary to think that your smartphone might be 'bugged' without you even knowing. According to another online source, Senator Ron Wyden has already sent letters to the FCC and telecoms companies requesting details about the program.
"I am writing to insist that AT&T take proactive steps to prevent the unrestricted disclosure and potential abuse of private customer data, including real-time location information, by at least one other company to the government," the letter reads.