The Surveillance State is Worse than you think
A new article from the Intercept exposes a secret few know about--and for those who do, many vastly underestimate it. App location data is a goldmine for spies in both private sector and government
Today’s substack post has some nuggets buried in it involving both the Seth Rich murder in 2016 as well as a theory of what may have happened in the early days of COVID-19, with a bombshell speculation about Operation WarpSpeed.
Admittedly an odd combination of topics, but there it is—strap yourself in for a wild ride.
Over on Telegram, @KanekoaTheGreat surfaced this blockbuster article today from the Intercept.com.
The article dives deeply into the use of cell-phone application location data harvested from a broad spectrum of apps (Twitter, SnapChat, Facebook, Instagram, Google Maps and many more) — data that can be packaged and freely resold for any number of (mostly nefarious) purposes to God-knows-whom.
The article also reveals the fact that certain entities have access to the “Twitter firehose” — i.e., a live feed of all tweets for data-mining— the importance of which I recently wrote about here in Memetic Injection.
Briefly: if you can trace through all tweets that appear on Twitter, you have the power to determine the “original entry point” of certain ideas (memes), talking points, and narrative pushes. You can also map out propagation networks of “influential voices”.
In the wrong hands, this is potentially dangerous information: it allows bad actors to locate the original sources of “memes” (ideas) and thus disrupt viral propagation of information that is “undesirable”—by interfering with its amplification—or outright censoring it.
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In the right hands, however, this kind of “original tweet” data can be used to find the source of information-warfare-based, narrative-shaping propaganda—like what was found to have been “memetically injected” by Chinese information warriors in the early days of COVID (h/t Michael P. Senger).
It can also expose the cacophony of dark networks of Twitter bots that amplify certain narratives for political purposes or other mind control.
I made reference to Senger’s thread in my “Pandoras Box” article on WordPress. There is so much information buried in these links that I’m including that it would take someone new to the topic of social-media warfare many weeks to wade through and catch up (If you are new to my substack, start here.)
Anyhow, back to today’s topic and the Intercept article: besides data-mining Twitter and other (anti-) social media platforms, the ability to abuse cell phone location tracking data is also fraught with peril.
Sometimes (rarely) it can be used for good ends, as in the 2000 Mules ballot box stuffing documentary that derives from the work of True the Vote—bombshell findings that are now being talked about all over the country.
Perhaps these new efforts will provide conclusive proof that the 2020 election was rigged to a wide enough “un-awakened” audience to finally have an impact.
Most uses of cell-phone location tracking, however, are not for beneficial purposes (although I will provide two more examples that might be.)
I have written about this subject myself for a few years; the current Intercept article goes deeper than any I have read before. It is definitely worth the read, and I highly recommend it.
There are two examples of cell phone location tracking that I have talked about in the past regarding the use of app-based location data: One is the Seth Rich murder, which I wrote about in Cell Phone data, Seth Rich and the New York Times; and the second is a mystery that I came across in the early days of COVID in the spring of 2020. I will cover those in a moment.
To kick things off, I’ll explain why this subject has been of interest to me for two decades.
In 1999, I and a team of 17 entrepreneurs (the majority from CalTech) started a software company focused on the nascent social networking space.
This was years before Facebook existed. The company was called ViaWorks, and it failed during the bursting of the DotCom bubble in 2000. Prior to ViaWorks, I had been involved with a Pasadena-based supercomputing company named Paracel. I wrote about that in this article “Supercomputing in 2021”.
I was the CFO and CTO of ViaWorks in 1999, and I had prepared three preliminary patent applications (“PPAs”) that covered some of the valuable intellectual property of the company. A “PPA” is often the first step in filing a patent; however, you have to file the formal patent within 12 months in order to maintain the ‘timestamp’ of your patent claim.
Filing a PPA is faster and less expensive, so small tech startups often start with those to establish priority with the Patent Office and then, with the value of those as “collateral”, they try to raise additional funds to secure expensive patent attorneys to be able to properly document the claims and file the full patents.
In our case, ViaWorks filed the three PPAs but ran out of funds in the DotCom crash and went out of business entirely before we could file the formal patents.
One of the PPAs was for the use of GPS location data from cell phones for what we called “location-based marketing”. We were likely the first group in the world to have developed the idea, back in 1999, of using GPS information from cell phones for something other than E-911 location, which was the original thrust of GPS on cell phones.
GPS on phones was a very new and rudimentary capability at that time; most phones were still flip phones and had only the most rudimentary of “browsers”. The idea that we had was to generate incremental sales and marketing opportunities based on a cell-phone owner’s real-time physical location.
The example we used to talk about was that your phone could present you a discount coupon, say, for a nearby Starbucks if it determined there was one nearby, and if that business wanted to create some added walk-in sales at that moment.
It would also let your friends know that you were at Starbucks and offer them a discount to join you. This was the idea covered in the PPA.
Needless to say, if I had filed that patent and been granted priority, my partner and I might be billionaires. But God had other plans for us. As a consequence of that early work and thinking, however, I have been aware of and watching the abuse of cellphone-based GPS data for a lot longer than many others.
So on to the two examples of how location data might be used for “white hat” purposes.
As the Intercept article covers in great depth, the sophistication and capability of harvesting information from cell phone location data generated by a whole host of common applications has become unimaginably powerful.
The New York Times did a piece back in 2019 that I tweeted about (the archived thread is here.) They had come into possession of a data set from an unknown or undisclosed source that included billions of cell phone location data points, and they were implying that they could use this phone location data to somehow ensnare or embarrass President Trump.
However, when I looked at the geographical area that the data covered, and the time frame that the cell phone location data covered, I realized that there was a potential bombshell hiding in their data: there might be details about who else was in the vicinity of Seth Rich the night he was murdered in July of 2016.
Their identities—and potentially where they were before and after the murder and with whom—could be hiding in the data set given to the NY Times. This possibility—of determining who is in the proximity of whom and when—is also featured in the Intercept article.
I tweeted at the NY Times in December of 2019, in reference to being able to potentially solve unsolved crimes with this kind of data:
“One such case happened on July 10, 2016, at 4:20am in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington DC. An interesting question for the NYT is this: does the data set you were handed by some ‘unspecified’ source have any records for that place, at that time?”
It remains unknown to this day whether the Times had this particular data, and whether they chose to pursue it (I suspect that they avoided it for political reasons.)
A few months later, in the spring of 2020, the world found itself in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am an armchair data nerd, and I had been tracking the daily mortality figures using worldometers data for my own charts.
I was focused on Italy, the US, India, Germany, Spain and a few other countries at the time. I would update my charts with the daily mortality data, and I could clearly see the worrying exponential rise in deaths that are the hallmark of a serious pandemic.
I chose, even then, to focus exclusively on the mortality data because there was already reason to distrust the “case counts” (the casedemic became a complete circus in the time since early 2020, as we all now know.)
I was deeply concerned about the apparent mortality in northern Italy: at the time, it appeared from the data there that if you were diagnosed and hospitalized with “COVID-19”, there was, at least at that time, a 7% chance you would die. That is extremely worrisome.
It was early in the pandemic, and there was a lot of “fog of war” obfuscation in the data, but I knew enough about doubling-times and exponential curves that are used by epidemiologists to track the spread of pandemics to be alarmed at that kind of mortality and infection rate—what the charts were suggesting.
Those are the kind of rates that can wipe out half the planet in a few months.
My first thought when I realized this was: “India is going to be utterly destroyed when it reaches there.”
The thinking at the time was that with their population density, extreme regional poverty, and widespread lack of access to adequate health facilities that the pandemic would be an utter disaster once it reached the Indian subcontinent.
But then two things happened that caught my attention. The first was that…India didn’t collapse into a pile of dead bodies as some were fearfully projecting.
For some reason, the effect of the virus was relatively muted relative to the rest of the world.
Curiously, President Trump visited there in March of 2020 and was greeted by a crowd of 100,000 people in a massive soccer stadium.
Here is an article about that visit.
The second thing that got my attention was that something odd was happening in the US in Florida during Spring Break of 2020.
Around this time, “Operation WarpSpeed” began to be talked about, and the mainstream media mocked Trump for saying “the virus might magically disappear sometime soon.”
It was an odd thing to say, and the media had a field day in attacking him for it. I began to speculate that there might be something more to “Operation WarpSpeed” than just the accelerated push to generate vaccines.
By the way, there was also this curious article later on in December of 2021 about Walter Reed (where Trump was hospitalized in October of 2020—by chance, I was among the Trump supporters on the street outside Walter Reed following a rally.)
The article mentions a ‘soccer-ball shaped molecule’ and a universal vaccine for coronaviruses. One wonders…
What caught my attention in the spring of 2020 and got me thinking differently about what was happening (or not happening) was the video in this tweet which is still available, amazingly enough. Go watch it.
What it shows is the ability track the movement (using cell phone location data) of students who were on a particular stretch of beach in Florida during spring break of 2020, and then see where they went afterwards.
Here’s what was going through my mind around that time. I was an early and vocal proponent of the “lab leak theory” from Wuhan, evidence for which was documented in part here.
Consider this thesis: suppose that China did in fact intentionally release a respiratory virus using a SARS-like Coronavirus vector (which they had experience with from the SARS-1 outbreak in 2002-2004.)
Western military defense groups, including in the US, had been studying biological weapons for many decades; at the very least, to be prepared with some kind of defense posture in the event of an attack (Ebola, Anthrax, bubonic plague, SARS, etc.)
One must presume that there were many contingency plans already developed for a variety of pathogens should they be used in an attack, including coronaviruses (SARS-like.) One would also hope that offensive bioweapons were NOT being researched. But who knows.
One possible defense in the case of an attack is to inoculate a target population with a weakened, far-less lethal version of some pathogen so that herd immunity can be rapidly developed. There isn’t time for a vaccine.
If this can be done, the deadlier pathogen will “burn out” relatively quickly, because it can’t find enough unprotected hosts to infect (since some large fraction of them already have some form of immunity.) This is essentially what we saw happen in late 2021 with Omicron, by the way…hold that thought in mind.
Let’s assume the biowarfare labs in fact HAD an “antidote” virus on the shelf ready to deploy; and let’s assume that they tested this quickly in some small population to make sure it was effective enough.
Granted, the intentional release of a weakened virus is risky, and by itself will cause a certain number of deaths; but if it blunts the impact of a far worse pathogen, perhaps there may be no other ethical choice.
If in fact they had such a contingency virus — do you really think the military would NOT have deployed it to defend the population? If they did have an immune-boosting but weakened virus and DID NOT deploy it—with the result that millions more would have died from the attacking virus—wouldn’t that have been a morally wrong thing to do? A difficult ethical dilemma, for sure.
If they HAD a protective virus (whether they did or not is speculative), it is almost certain that they would have deployed it.
Well, if you were to imagine doing something like this prophylactically, you would choose a young, healthy, and robust population to protectively infect that would be unlikely to die from the weakened virus; and you would want that population to rapidly spread the beneficial infection all over the U.S. as quickly as possible to build herd immunity.
Maybe, for instance, by infecting young kids partying in Florida on Spring Break, and then tracking them as they carried the virus with them all over the country as they returned home. Go back and re-watch that Tectonix video above.
Or maybe, you might accomplish herd immunity by infecting young Indians who visited the soccer pitch in Mumbai in March of 2020 to see President Trump speak. Surprisingly, early reports suggested India had achieved herd immunity (on the basis of antibodies) long before anyone expected that to be possible.
Does Operation WarpSpeed now take on a different meaning when you contemplate this possibility? I don’t know that any of this actually happened; 50 years from now, maybe it will be declassified, if it did transpire this way. But one can make a reasonable argument that it was a possibility; and that cell-phone tracking of students on Spring Break in Florida is one interesting clue.
I hope this substack post got you to think about some things in a completely different light, and I hope that you will read and re-read that Intercept article from start to finish. Think carefully about all the ways that such data might be exploited against you.
It’s vital that you understand the magnitude of what is now possible in the “OSINT” arena—using data that a blissfully unaware and narcissistic population gives away to bad actors for free.
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All predicated on the fact the virus actually exists ....see Dr Tom Cowan...
Trevor Bedford's genetic data shows that both Omicrons BA.1 & BA.2 were branched off of the original SARS-Cov-2 virus. In other words, it did not have any the thousands of mutations that all the other ones (alpha, beta, delta, gamma, etc) have naturally gathered along the way. More telling is that they are both wildly different than anything else ever seen out there -- Both more different from the original virus than Delta was from the original. In fact, the two variants which both were discovered at about the same time in South Africa, though shared a common never seen ancestor were more different enough FROM EACH OTHER than Delta was from the original.
There is zero chance that both of these variants were out in the wild mutating this much with no-one ever coming across any of the multitude of changes that happened along the way. Quite simply the two Omicrons were developed and released.