The body tasked with oversight of the IRS announced in a letter that it will investigate the agency’s use of location data harvested from ordinary apps installed on peoples’ phones, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Motherboard.
The move comes after Senators Ron Wyden and Elizabeth Warren demanded a formal investigation into how the IRS used the location data to track Americans without a warrant.
“We are going to conduct a review of this matter, and we are in the process of contacting the CI [Criminal Investigation] division about this review,” the letter, signed by J. Russell George, the Inspector General, and addressed to the Senators, reads. CI has a broad mandate to investigate abusive tax schemes, bankruptcy fraud, identity theft, and many more similar crimes. Wyden’s office provided Motherboard with a copy of the letter on Tuesday.
Do you work at Venntel, Babel Street, or other company providing location data to the government? Did you used to? Do you know anything else about the sale of location data? We’d love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, OTR chat on email@example.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In June, officials from the IRS Criminal Investigation unit told Wyden’s office that it had purchased location data from a contractor called Venntel, and that the IRS had tried to use it to identify individual criminal suspects. Venntel obtains location data from innocuous looking apps such as games, weather, or e-commerce apps, and then sells access to the data to government clients.