Photo: Rev Dan Catt via flickr
For several years, AT&T and T-Mobile have installed TruePosition software on their phones to tell police where customers are if they’re in danger.According to Wired, TruePosition grabs about 60 million locations annually from 911 calls, and the company has recently branched out into homeland security across the globe.
Using their “location intelligence” or LOCINT software, officials may collect information on known phones of employees working in sensitive areas like airports or power plants. Called a “geofence” the network is rigged so that any unknown phone within its radius sets off an alarm.
The network can also ping officials if a known number enters a certain district — like a terrorist arriving at an airport. It’s will also monitor the calls and texts of everyone the suspect calls, and who they call, and so on.
TruePosition sells to cell phone carriers, but is “cagey about whether whether the U.S. government uses its products.”
Foreign governments are another story. The company’s director of marketing Brian Varano told Wired, “Ministries of defence and Interior from around the world [are] beating down our door.”
Which is raising concerns that governments with little respect for human rights will abuse the technology and monitor dissident networks.
The company maintains a low-profile, grants few interviews, and is little known even within the surveillance industry.
The result, says Christopher Soghoian, a graduate fellow at Indiana University’s centre for Applied Cybersecurity Research, is to make TruePosition the most important global geolocation company you’ve never heard of. “It’s like that line about Keyser Soze from The Usual Suspects — the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist,” Soghoian says. “They’ve done the same thing. Staying entirely below the radar.”
This could be a new tool for regimes in countries like Belarus where protesters are gathering with nothing but their cell phone alarms to express their agenda.
Soon, the police can put away their video cameras and just read off names of protesters on the “geofence”.
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