Homeland Security is using cellphone location data to police the US-Mexico border

Purchased from marketing companies.

Photo Beto/iStock Unreleased/Getty Images

Homeland Security is utilizing cell phone location data to police the US-Mexico border, according to an eye-opening report from The Wall Street Journal. What's most jarring, though, is the department's source; DHS confirmed it purchased the data from marketing companies that compile the information from seemingly innocuous apps. By giving location access for something as mundane as checking the weather, that data can end up being used in Donald Trump's draconian border enforcement.

From apps to arrests — DHS has made arrests after using the data to see where people have crossed the border and tracing it back to individuals. The data comes from Venntel, one of many companies that compile a frighteningly exhaustive report of cellphone users' whereabouts. WSJ reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection have also used the data. But unlike DHS, they weren't willing to confirm.

Who else can get your data? — Just last month, the FCC announced that cell phone carriers had broken the law by allowing location data to fall into nefarious hands. This followed a Motherboard report finding that anyone's data could be bought on the black market for as little as $300. As far as I'm concerned, allowing ICE to get this data is just as terrifying.