Location Tracking
Image Courtesy of FPF
  • Prison telecom company Securus has a service that enables law enforcement to track most American cellphones in real time.
  • The service makes use of a web interface leveraging its location API.
  • Securus has access to a real-time database of cell-site records that can be used to get cell phone information to initiate tracking.

With enough controversy surrounding data privacy all over the globe, prison telecom company Securus has been reported to enable real-time tracking for most cell phones in the USA. The service does so by leveraging its location API along with cellphone data received from third-party data brokers.

The tracking is done through a web-based interface, and the service can allow law enforcement to start tracking cell phone location in a matter of seconds. The cellphone data Securus has access to is provided by third party data brokers who are tied to telecoms directly. The third-party data providers mostly rely on exploiting advertising to tempt mobile users into enabling GPS tracking for location-based advertisements. Securus revealed that it gets its data from 3CInteractive. 3CInteractive is known to get its data from LocationSmart. It is likely that Securus uses LocationSmart’s API to enable its web-based tracking service.

Securus
Image Courtesy of Securus

To get access to the private location tracking data, correctional officers can directly visit Securus’ web service and enter US phone numbers to track. An official document that explicitly permits an officer to track a number needs to be provided. However, there are no screening measures for the documents as the location tracking requests are instantly granted by the service before the document are verified.

In response to the findings, company officials have confirmed that the service undergoes no form of verification to allow law enforcement officials to track any phone. Real-time surveillance requests are instantly approved and not reviewed if requested by law enforcement officials.

The company is currently under scrutiny by law enforcement over misuse of the web service. A law enforcement official was reported to have misused the service against a judge over 11 times, which brought the prison telecom company under scrutiny in court. How Securus’ location tracking policies are dealt with is yet to be seen.