US Pentagon-Funded Researchers Reportedly Spied on Russian Defence Officials Using Marketing Data From Cell Phones

This is not the first time that American researchers have used data from cell phones that was obtained in questionable ways to spy on the Russian defence industry. In May, the analytics company Orbital Insights said that with the use of purchased cell network data it had detected a slowdown in the country’s defence industry.

Researchers from Mississippi State University tracked down and monitored movements of unnamed Russian officials possibly related to the country’s defence industry by simply buying commercial data collected from their cell phones, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing documents obtained under a request from the state. It’s not clear why the researchers targeted the Russian defence industry specifically, but they indicated that their work might be of interest for law enforcement and American government agencies.

The group of academics, funded by the Pentagon, obtained geolocation data, collected by various mobile apps from users’ phones and then sold it to marketing companies, from a company named Babel Street. While the firm describes itself as social-media monitoring service, they have a “secret” product named “Locate X”, which allows clients to access archives of cell location data obtained from various sources, the newspaper claims. The company does not advertise the product and requires its clients to remain mum on its existence, the WSJ adds.

The team from the Mississippi University tracked phone owners whose location was close to known or…

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