Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, New York Times:
Securus offers the location-finding service as an additional feature for law enforcement and corrections officials, part of an effort to entice customers in a lucrative but competitive industry. In promotional packets, the company, one of the largest prison phone providers in the country, recounts several instances in which the service was used.
In one, a woman sentenced to drug rehab left the center but was eventually located by an official using the service. Other examples include an official who found a missing Alzheimer’s patient and detectives who used “precise location information positioning” to get “within 42 feet of the suspect’s location” in a murder case.
Asked about Securus’s vetting of surveillance requests, a company spokesman said that it required customers to upload a legal document, such as a warrant or affidavit, and certify that the activity was authorized.
“Securus is neither a judge nor a district attorney, and the responsibility of ensuring the legal adequacy of supporting documentation lies with our law enforcement customers and their counsel,” the spokesman said in a statement. Securus offers services only to law enforcement and corrections facilities, and not all officials at a given location have access to the system, the spokesman said.
To be clear, all that this software requires is for users to type in a phone number, upload a supporting document, and check a box certifying that it’s a legal request. The location of the phone attached to that number will then be revealed; there appears to be no intermediary step of verifying that the location search is legally justified. No wonder this news story is about the abuse of such a flawed system.