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Inside a Global Phone Spy Tool Monitoring Billions

404 Media: “Hundreds of thousands of ordinary apps, including popular ones such as 9gag, Kik, and a series of caller ID apps, are part of a global surveillance capability that starts with ads inside each app, and ends with the apps’ users being swept up into a powerful mass monitoring tool advertised to national security agencies that can track the physical location, hobbies, and family members of people to build billions of profiles, according to a 404 Media investigation. 404 Media’s investigation, based on now deleted marketing materials and videos, technical forensic analysis, and research from privacy activists, provides one of the clearest examinations yet of how advertisements in ordinary mobile apps can ultimately lead to surveillance by spy firms and their government clients through the real time bidding data supply chain. The pipeline involves smaller, obscure advertising firms and advertising industry giants like Google. In response to queries from 404 Media, Google and PubMatic, another ad firm, have already cut-off a company linked to the surveillance firm.

The pervasive surveillance machine that has been developed for digital advertising now directly enables government mass surveillance. Many businesses, from app publishers to advertisers to big tech, are acting completely irresponsibly. This must end,” Wolfie Christl, the principal of Cracked Labs, an Austrian research institute and co-author of a paper published last year that researched the surveillance tool, told 404 Media…” [Source – Europe’s hidden security crisis. How data about European defence personnel and political leaders flows to foreign states and non-state actors. Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL)]

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