How Much Information Does Your Phone Reveal Without You Knowing?

How Much Information Does Your Phone Reveal Without You Knowing?

TruePosition is a ghost. Few know anything substantive about the surveillance company, yet according to Wired’s Spencer Ackerman, governments are salivating over the company’s LOCINT product, which has the ability to drudge up plenty personal info through our mobile phones.

TruePosition doesn’t cover up who they are. However, the specific details of who they deal with and what services are offered to specific clients is kept under lock and key. their main technology, LOCINT, stands for location intelligence, and uses a technique called geofencing to gather information from mobile phones.

As a homeland security tool, it’s enticing. Imagine an “invisible barrier around sensitive sites like critical infrastructure,” such as oil refineries or power plants, TruePosition’s director of marketing, Brian Varano, tells Danger Room. The barrier contains a list of known phones belonging to people who work there, allowing them to pass freely through the covered radius. “If any phone enters that is not on the authorised list, [authorities]are immediately notified.”

The data collected in these geofences can be analysed in real time, and its contents stored for later use. It can also determine the location of individuals who were called and texted by the targeted phone. But what has some people on edge is the fact that foreign governments are now buying the technology for unspecified uses.

And if some repressive governments are in that mix, TruePosition’s position is that what they do with LOCINT is on them.

“We’re providing this tool to governments and it’s the governments’ onus to adhere to laws on its use,” Varano says. In western countries, he says, warrants, court orders and other safeguards prevent LOCINT abuse. But surveillance works differently elsewhere: “It’s not being used like that in the U.S. or western societies, but in other parts of the world, the capability of doing mass tracking is possible.”

TruePosition uses signal latency between multiple, pizza box-shaped network receivers and mobile devices to determine locations of individuals. But what can they do with that technology? Hypothetically, it could be used to track the origins of a terrorist attack.

“We find which phone called that phone – that’s our triggerman. Then we find which phones they called – the initial suspects. If they held onto that phone, we’d be able to see who that phone contacted.” And where they are now, in real time.

But it’s not all cloak and dagger paranoia. The LOCINT technology is also used for Enhanced 911, which mobile carriers can use to locate any phone whose radio is turned on. According to Ackerman, one such instanced involved an abducted corrections officer in Kentucky who was stuffed in a trunk by a parolee, and had their phone tossed along side a highway. But police were able to track the phone and determine the route the criminal had taken. They set up a roadblock and caught him.

That said, how much should we really trust a company who primarily operates in a clandestine manner? For more on TruePosition, be sure to check out the entire feature on [Danger Room]

Image via Flickr/William Hook