Cellebrite, an Israeli-based company that creates hardware and software to unlock smartphones, has thousands of customers in the U.S. government, including some within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to The Intercept.
Although Cellebrite initially only worked with law enforcement agencies, the company has begun to broaden its availability in the private sector. The Intercept reviewed federal purchasing records and Cellebrite securities documents, finding that almost every U.S. Cabinet department, and several other federal agencies, have all bought products from Cellebrite in the last few years.
These departments and agencies include Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Education, and the Social Security Administration, among others.
A recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows that the company now has more than 2,800 government customers in North America and that in order to gain these customers, the company has hired members of law enforcement to train people in how to use the technology, and marketed its products to corporations and law firms as a way to investigate their employees.
The filing also claims that six of the largest pharmaceutical companies and six of the largest oil refiners in the world have been Cellebrite's clients.
Albert Fox Cahn, the executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, told the Intercept that there needs to be greater oversight on the use of mass surveillance technology in the government.
"There are few guidelines on how departments can use our data once they get it. We can't allow every federal department to turn into its own spy agency," Cahn said.
"Not only is there no justification for agencies like U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to use this sort of invasive technology, it's deeply alarming to see agencies use these devices in more and more low-level cases," he added.
The lobbying firm Alpine Group recently filed a disclosure form to the U.S. Senate to lobby on behalf of Cellebrite, but both companies declined to comment on the work to The Intercept. Most federal departments, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, did not provide a comment to The Intercept.
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