WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service attempted to identify and track potential criminal suspects by purchasing access to a commercial database that records the locations of millions of American cellphones.
The IRS Criminal Investigation unit, or IRS CI, had a subscription to access the data in 2017 and 2018, and the way it used the data was revealed last week in a briefing by IRS CI officials to Sen. Ron Wyden’s office. The briefing was described to the Wall Street Journal by an aide to the Oregon Democrat.
IRS CI officials told Wyden’s office that their lawyers had given verbal approval for the use of the database, which is sold by a Virginia-based government contractor called Venntel Inc. Venntel obtains anonymized location data from the marketing industry and resells it to governments. IRS CI added that it let its Venntel subscription lapse after it failed to locate any targets of interest during the year it paid for the service, according to Wyden’s aide.
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