IRS used cell phone data to try to track potential suspects: report 

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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) used cell phone data to try and hack potential suspects of fraud, a Senate aide told the Wall Street Journal.

In 2017 and 2018 the IRS Criminal Investigation unit had a subscription to Venntel, a company that obtains anonymized location data from the marketing industry and resells it to governments.

The subscription cost the government $20,000, the Journal reported.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) was briefed on the way they used the data, which reportedly failed to locate any targets of interest during the time the IRS was subscribed to their services. 

A spokesperson for the IRS told the Journal that they entered into a “limited contract with Venntel to test their services against the law enforcement requirements of our agency.” 

IRS CI said they used the database in “significant money-laundering, cyber, drug and organized-crime cases.”

The Journal reported in February that Department of Homeland Security agencies were buying Venntel subscriptions for immigration enforcement purposes.

Until 2018, prosecutors needed “reasonable grounds” to seek cell tower records from a carrier. Government prosecutors have concluded that since the marketing services do not collect personal information, the rule does not apply.

Wyden’s office and the IRS did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

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