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Tax Agency Watchdog Is Investigating IRS Use of Cellphone Location Data


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The IRS app on a mobile phone.

U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russel George said he will review Internal Revenue Service use of software that enables warrantless surveillance of cellphones.

Credit: moblogon.com

U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russel George submitted a letter to Congress that he will review the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)' use of software from data company Venntel, which enables warrantless surveillance of cellphones.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the IRS Criminal Investigation unit had a subscription to access Venntel's data in 2017 and 2018, and made a failed attempt to identify cellphones present at crime scenes from this data.

Firms like Venntel take cellphone location data from applications used by marketers to target ads, and sell it to agencies through their software platform; otherwise unidentified phone owners can be deduced by their device's real-world movements.

The inspector's probe was prompted by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Elizabeth Warren's (D-MA) concerns that such surveillance might violate the ruling of a Supreme Court case requiring law enforcement to secure warrants to track cellphones of suspects.

From The Wall Street Journal
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