Agencies usually require a warrant or court order to force a company to provide location data for an investigation. But agencies don’t need a warrant if they can buy the data
Motherboard writes that they were able to obtain a US secret service document that tells about the purchase of "Locate X", a product that collects location data obtained from common applications.
In March, tech publication Protocol reported that several government agencies signed millions of dollars worth of deals with Babel Street after the company launched Locate X.
The private service "Locate X" anonymously and without warning collects information about the location of devices using data from various mobile applications.
Public records showed that US Customs and Border Protection purchased this product. One of the former employees of "Babel Street" said that the Secret Service used this technology. The document, which was obtained by Motherboard, confirms this conclusion.
Plenty of smartphone apps, from weather forecasters and games to flashlights, collect location data. This can sometimes provide some benefit to the application itself, such as the ability to get directions based on the user’s current location, but many of these applications often also sell this information to data brokers or other companies.
Motherboard also reported that some law enforcement agencies are paying to access data from hacked sites.