A section of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), a part of the military tasked with counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and special reconnaissance, paid half a million dollars to a company that sells access to location data harvested from ordinary apps installed on peoples’ phones, Motherboard has learned. Specifically, SOCOM paid Anomaly 6, a secretive contractor run by ex-military and location industry veterans.
The news shows that military interest in app-based location data may be wider than previously known. Motherboard previously found that both SOCOM and a division of the Iowa Air National Guard that carries out drone strikes bought access to a similar product called Locate X. The new Anomaly 6 purchase unearthed by Motherboard is the first reported contract Anomaly 6 has with the U.S. government.
“The purpose of the contract was to evaluate the technical feasibility of using Anomaly 6 telemetry services in an overseas operating environment,” Tim Hawkins, a SOCOM spokesperson, told Motherboard in an email. “The evaluation period has ended, and we are not currently executing the contract.”