Secret Service Paid To Get Americans’ Location Data Without a Warrant, Documents Show

A newly released document shows the U.S. Secret Service went through a controversial social media surveillance company to purchase the location information on American’s movements, no warrant necessary. Babel Street is a shadowy organization that offers a product called Locate X that is reportedly used to gather anonymized location data from a host of popular apps that users have unwittingly installed on their phones. When we say “unwittingly,” we mean that not everyone is aware that random innocuous apps are often bundling and anonymizing their data to be sold off to the highest bidder.

Back in March, Protocol reported that U.S. Customs and Border Protection had a contract to use Locate X and that sources inside the secretive company described the system’s capabilities as allowing a user “to draw a digital fence around an address or area, pinpoint mobile devices that were within that area, and see where else those devices have traveled, going back months.” Protocol’s sources also said that the Secret Service had used the Locate X system in the course of investigating a large credit card skimming operation. On Monday, Motherboard confirmed the investigation when it published an internal Secret Service document it acquired through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. (You can view the full document here.) The document covers a relationship between Secret Service and Babel Street from September 28, 2017, to September 27, 2018. In the past, the Secret Service has reportedly used a separate social media surveillance product from Babel Street, and the newly-released document totals fees paid after the addition of the Locate X license as $1,999,394.