House Committee on Oversight and Reform launches investigation into Venntel

Committee gives Venntel until July 8 to turn over pertinent documents

The Democratic-led House Committee on Oversight and Reform announced that it’s launched an investigation into the collection and sale of sensitive mobile phone location data revealing the movements of millions of Americans.

The investigation aims at Venntel, a Virginia-based data broker and software company that has contracts with the Department of Homeland Security, the criminal investigation division of the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other government entities. 

Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform; Committee Member Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA); and Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) are spearheading the investigation.

According to a letter sent to Venntel, the committee is seeking information related to the company's clients, where its data comes from, and how the anonymity of its users is being secured. It also requests a description of any COVID-19-related efforts Venntel is involved in. The committee has requested documentation delivery by July 8, 2020.

“We seek information about your company’s provision of consumer location data to federal government agencies for law enforcement purposes without a warrant and for any other purposes, including in connection with the response to the coronavirus crisis,” the Members stated in the letter.  

“The vast majority of Americans carry cell phones with apps capable of collecting precise location information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This location-tracking raises serious privacy and security concerns,” the letter continued.

The Wall Street Journal previously reported that Venntel’s platform was used by the Department of Homeland Security to detect unlawful border crossings. The IRS also attempted to track criminal suspects with it, though the effort was unsuccessful.

At the time, Alan Butler, general counsel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said, “This is a classic situation where creeping commercial surveillance in the private sector is now bleeding directly over into government.” 

Featured Resources

The complete guide to changing your phone system provider

Optimise your phone system for better business results

Download now

Simplify cluster security at scale

Centralised secrets management across hybrid, multi-cloud environments

Download now

The endpoint as a key element of your security infrastructure

Threats to endpoints in a world of remote working

Download now

2021 state of IT asset management report

The role of IT asset management for maximising technology investments

Download now

Most Popular

Microsoft CEO warns of video call fatigue
video conferencing

Microsoft CEO warns of video call fatigue

7 Oct 2020
Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 launches with PCIe support
Hardware

Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 launches with PCIe support

19 Oct 2020
Google blocked record-breaking 2.5Tbps DDoS attack in 2017
Security

Google blocked record-breaking 2.5Tbps DDoS attack in 2017

19 Oct 2020