Iowa Air Guard Unit Involved In Overseas Drone Strikes Is Buying Location Data From Data Brokers

from the whatever-facilitates-forever-wars dept

Killing people using metadata is boring. These days, we're killing people using data brokers.

A division of the Iowa Air National Guard that carries out overseas intelligence missions, performs reconnaissance, and conducts strikes with Reaper drones recently bought access to location data harvested from ordinary apps installed on peoples' smartphones, Motherboard has found. The tool, called Locate X, lets users search by a specific area and see which devices were present in that location at a particular point in time.

Supposedly this data is anonymized but sources familiar with the data -- pulled from popular apps like Muslim Pro, which has been dowloaded nearly 100 million times -- said it doesn't take much effort to deanonymize it. Obviously, using anonymized data to locate targets for extrajudicial killings would be incredibly irresponsible, so this guard unit's use presumably involved sniffing out the users behind the data to prevent targeting innocent foreigners. (Presumably.)

The National Guard has declined to say what it used the data for. But given it's tasked with overseas surveillance and drone strikes, the best case scenario is that it conducted surveillance, rather than killings, using the data. This particular Air Guard used to fly actual airplanes, but gave that up for the more efficient practice of killing people overseas while never having to leave the comfort of the American Midwest.

According to public procurement records, the Iowa Air National Guard has purchased a "premium data feed" from Locate X, something that runs it $35,000 a year.

The facts seen in the public records are indeed factual. That's about the only thing the Air National Guard is willing to confirm.

"The Iowa National Guard did request the purchase of the software Locate X," Major Katherine Headley, director of public affairs at the Iowa National Guard, told Motherboard in an email. Headley declined to say exactly how the Iowa Air National Guard will use the data.

Joseph Cox's report for Vice notes the Air Guard helped man COVID-19 test sites and was involved in contact tracing efforts. If that's what the Air Guard used its Locate X contract to facilitate, you'd think it would have gladly admitted it was part of the local fight against the spread of the virus. Instead, it has effectively pleaded the government version of the Fifth, refusing to discuss details while confirming nothing more than what cannot possibly be denied.

Then there's this, which strongly suggests its use of Locate X had nothing to do with any non-warfighting efforts:

"This product will be used to support our federal mission requirements overseas."

And since part of its "federal mission requirements" involves operating armed Reaper drones, it's not irresponsible to assume the purchased data has been used to carry out drone strikes, which turns "harmless" app location data into targeting data for our apparently never-ending, extrajudicial killing programs.

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Filed Under: air guard, data brokers, drone strikes, iowa, location data
Companies: locate x


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  • identicon
    Annonymouse, 11 Mar 2021 @ 1:04pm

    Extrajudicial killings

    Nice double speak.
    It sounds so much better than Government Sanctioned Murders.

    Would this division be classified as Murder Hobos even though they sit their butts in one place now?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2021 @ 5:23pm

      Re: Extrajudicial killings

      Murder is a priveledged term. Bomb their legitimate military targets that are literally designed for it such as a military base and it is called murder. Bomb where they think there /might/ be enemy targets and blow up a wedding and it is collateral damage.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    We Are Not Legion, 11 Mar 2021 @ 6:04pm

    Likely story

    Sounds like "parallel construction"... since when does the military and its allies need to buy data? What about the trillions of spy satellites in orbit?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2021 @ 7:16pm

    The ai, laser, and nervous system tracking radar thing has been mass murdering and disabling neuron based organisms for decades now. I don't know if their doing a good job against the humans that released it or not but if they're trying good.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2021 @ 7:22pm

      Re:

      I think the Star Trek convention is down the hall.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2021 @ 7:31pm

        Re: Re:

        My radiation burns and torture wounds say you can talk about fiction by yourself.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2021 @ 1:46am

          Re: Re: Re:

          You can claim as many burns as you like, there is no "nervous system tracking radar".

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2021 @ 9:29am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Yes there is.... and it's easier than most other types of radars because nervous systems have large natural frequency responses or they wouldn't be nervous systems. You can view the image of one on an mri or fmri in any equipped hospital

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2021 @ 8:01am

    That right there

    That’s why I turn my phone off when I ain’t using it.
    Don’t call me, I’ll call you

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John Eight Thirty-Two, 15 Mar 2021 @ 12:46pm

    not to worry!

    The concerns expressed in this piece are understandable, but incorrect. The IANG used the Locate X data not to target drone strikes, but to identify individuals for surveillance. The surveillance was conducted by means of drones. The drone surveillance was used to target drone strikes.

    I'm glad I was able to clear up this misunderstanding.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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