Surveillance Company Can Allegedly Access Over 15 Billion Vehicle Locations

According to a study by McKinsey, the global revenue generated by car data could be worth up to 750 billion USD by 2030.
Fabienne Lang

A surveillance contractor, that claims to have access to motor vehicles' real-time location in nearly every country in the world, told Motherboard that it's planning on sharing that data with U.S. federal agencies. This way, they can carry out more efficient spying and military operations.

The Ulysses Group states it has access to more than 15 billion vehicle locations worldwide every month, with the exception of North Korea and Cuba. The information can apparently be viewed both in real-time and at a later date. 

All of this information came to light after a document created by the Ulysses Group was obtained and shared with Motherboard, which stated the company could "remotely geo-locate" vehicles in almost every country. 

The main point of the document is to point out how this information could be useful to governmental agencies. 

As our devices, and vehicles become more and more linked up to the Internet, it's easy to see how more data, including location, usage rates, communications preferences, and more, could be gathered.

On top of that, this car data can be monetized in huge ways. As consulting firm McKinsey pointed out in a 2016 study, by 2030, the total global revenue gathered by car data could range between $450 billion and $750 billion.

How and why is location data gathered?

Typically, automakers and car parts manufacturers are the ones to receive this information, and the worrying part is what can then happen to this data if and when it's sold on to another party. 

It's no news that private contractors such as the Ulysses Group are employed by government agencies to gather and provide data, but it's still a worrying trend to come to terms with. 

As the Group explains in its document, its intentions are to assist agencies with spying and extra intelligence. "The data can be used to geo-locate, track and target time sensitive mobile targets, tip and cue sensors, develop patterns of life, identify networks and relationships, and enhance situational awareness among many other applications," the document reads. 

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We're picturing some James Bond spying tech happening from an underground bunker on a remote island. However, it's likely taking place from a much more accessible space. 

Regardless of whether or not a spy like 007 is working behind the scenes with his new tracking software to catch the "baddies," what remains to be understood is exactly where and how this data is being gathered by companies like Ulysses.

Is the location that's gathered and shared coming from the company making the new infotainment for vehicles, the traffic data company, the company running the parking data, or is it coming from the automaker himself?

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