Tools Of Mass Surveillance In Use Right In Your Hands

UNITED STATES - Law enforcement agencies across the country are using a mysterious cellphone tracking tool that lies in an unregulated gray zone in regard to personal rights.

According to AP News, through a series of internal emails they've obtained and some public records, the new tech utilized by law enforcement, with and without warrants, spans from coast to coast and can even go back in time to see your geolocation and movements for months in the past.

The new tool is called "Fog Reveal", which has been used to search databases of records for hundreds of billions of individuals in the United States.

The data that is being collected is being used to build what has been called "patterns of life" in the law enforcement community, which is a location analysis of the past location history of your smartphone.

The company behind the new surveillance tech is called Fog Data Science LLC and is based out of Virginia. It has been in the law enforcement service since 2018.

So far Fog Reveal has been used in criminal investigations such as murder and theft and was even used to track potential participants involved in the January 6th Capital riot.

Defense Attorneys have claimed that it is difficult to defend their clients when the technology has been used because the software is rarely mentioned in public court records. Court records are typically heavily depended on when trying to prove a case based on the history of a similar event.

The company, Fog Data Science, was developed by two former employees of the Department of Homeland Security during the presidency of George W. Bush.

The company has stated that the program relies heavily on advertiser identification tokens, which are taken from apps such as Waze, Starbucks, and tons of others that collect your personal cellphone data to target advertisements based on a person's interest and movements. The Ad Tokens are collected by these private businesses and sold to companies like Fog Data Science. This ad token is then converted into a FOG ID and used for searches.

The actual advertisement ID cannot be accessed in the local law enforcement given toolset, but it is thought that it is used at the federal law enforcement level. However, there is no public information on federal law enforcement using this tool.

Bennett Cyphers, a special adviser at the Electronic Frontier Foundation ( EFF - a digital privacy rights advocacy group ) stated: "It's sort of a mass surveillance program on a budget,..."

Fog Reveal break down by EFF:

" Google Maps, is a web application that runs in your browser. To research its functionality, we locally reconstructed the app based on the web resources available by visiting By utilizing fog data science front-end code, we were able to create a local reproduction of the site's resources... then created a mock back-end server... we now have a local reproduction of the software...

Once the EFF team had signed into their mock representation of Fog Reveal, they were presented with a view such as Google Maps, as well as a toolbox to access the specific search tools. Geofences could be drawn to begin a "signal search" with a date and time associated with the query.

According to the manual provided by Fog Data Services, queries could be generated up to 90 days ago, or anytime between now and then, and can even plot a path taken by these date and time queries.

EFF is the group that is responsible for obtaining the documents and pertaining emails through actions such as Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and has shared them with AP News.

It was later found that Fog Reveal had sold its software program in 35+ contracts to nearly 24 other organizations.

There is little oversight in this field yet by the government, due to the fact that it is still an evolving legal gray zone with virtually no regulation. Companies are using this gray area to aid law enforcement agencies that are "underfunded and understaffed" by helping fill a "gap", as reported by AP.

The legal gray area that has been specified, is discussed amongst groups like EFF when it comes to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which protects citizens from illegal search and seizure. Due to the secrecy of this tool, there aren't many details being reported, and operators will not disclose any information when asked.

According to EFF, when you allow an app to access your location, it generates an identification token of the location. It is then sold to other companies. Fog Data Science is one of those companies, and their search engine "Fog Reveal allows cops to browse through that location data as if they were Google Map results."

EFF also states that Fog Reveal's front-end code contains pieces of a much stronger government codeset which would allow for the obtaining of IP addresses and other specific phone information.

The "federalized" codeset has a set of tools that grant access to an interface that will convert FOG ID tokens back to the device's original advertising token. This means that at the federal level, Fog Reveal allows for the identity of the phone owner to be identified. As specified by EFF, This would negate a statement made by Fog Data Services in one of the disclosed emails by law enforcement, which reads:

"...the Advertising ID, a correlation can be made between that phone and the alphanumeric numbers used in the Fog Reveal Portal. The reverse is not possible, using the registration numbers to identify individual mobile device numbers or owners is not possible, providing a registration number will not result in a return of an Advertising ID..." - Fog Data Services

Additional information that can be viewed with the federal toolset but not in the local toolset:
  • User Agent
  • Browser Family
  • Browser Version
  • OS Family
  • OS Version
  • Device Family
  • Device Brand
  • Device Model
  • If the Device Belongs to an EU Resident
  • Last Seen IP Addresses
  • Additional Interface Based On IP Address
According to Apple Insider, Fog partners with Venntel, Inc which is a data broker and is contracted with law enforcement. By uniting, the two companies gain further knowledge about people and details regarding their lives.

Fog Reveal also claims that the data used is freely given by individuals, through your phone's location services application and can be turned off.

The digital world we live in today is described often as one of mass surveillance, big brother, and we're being watched. However, there are steps you can take to safeguard yourself. If you were to remove your phone from your person, and not get on the computer, you would essentially have an anonymous life comparable to the 90s, but this isn't necessary.

All these apps on your phone can have the location disabled. EFF suggests that you disable location settings on all your apps in an effort to safeguard yourself. Do not post specific and personal information on social media. Keep it clean and professional. This will help keep you safe.

The Associated Press | Electronic Frontier Foundation
| Apple Insider
Electronic Frontier Foundation Shared Documents: Shared Emails PDF | Fog Reveal Operator's Manual PDF

Photo Accreditation
We See Everything | Author:
Irbsas | Public Domain Image | via Wikimedia Commons

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