April 15, 2024


A data broker compiled a report on the geographical movements of visitors to Jeffrey Epstein’s “pedophile island,” culling it from mobile data that it acquired via unknown means, a new investigation by Wired reveals.

The company in question, which was formerly called Near Intelligence, confirmed to Wired that it had created such a report but refused to give details about who commissioned the report or what it was for. The report involves data points, sourced from mobile web traffic, that appear to reveal 166 locations throughout the U.S., “where Near Intelligence infers that visitors to Little St. James likely lived and worked.” Near Intelligence reportedly got its mobile location data from online ad exchanges, which can pick up details about mobile users through the apps on their phones. When analyzed, the data gives companies like Near Intelligence an accurate assessment of a person’s geographical movements as they go about their daily activities.

If Near Intelligence was able to methodically identify the trajectories of visitors to Epstein’s secretive haven, it doesn’t seem to have spent much effort protecting the data that it accumulated. That is, Wired journalists somehow stumbled upon the Epstein report, which they say had been left exposed to the open internet. Wired reports:

Near Intelligence…tracked devices visiting Little St. James from locations in 80 cities crisscrossing 26 US states and territories, with Florida, Massachusetts, Texas, Michigan, and New York topping the list. The coordinates point to mansions in gated communities in Michigan and Florida; homes in Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket in Massachusetts; a nightclub in Miami; and the sidewalk across the street from Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

For years, privacy advocates have warned that the data brokerage industry is a civil liberties nightmare that threatens the very basic tenets of personal digital autonomy. This story would seem to hammer that point home. Jeffrey Epstein’s island is alleged to have been a secret haven for the misdeeds of the wealthy and the powerful. Yet somehow a private company found location data which, under the right circumstances, could be used to unmask the visitors to that super private island. It then seems to have sloppily left the information exposed to the internet. If even Epstein’s secret cabal is exposed to this kind of mediocre corporate espionage, then there truly is no place anybody can hide from the roving eye of the data brokerage industry.

In recent years, Near Intelligence has been wracked by scandal and previously filed for bankruptcy amid claims of internal malfeasance. It has since reincorporated and rebranded itself as “Azira.”

Gizmodo reached out to Azira for comment and will update this story if it responds. A person speaking for Azira told Wired the following: “Azira is committed to data privacy and responsible access to and use of location data…To this end, Azira works to track and respond to legal developments under emerging new state laws, FTC guidance and prior enforcement examples, and best practices. Azira is developing procedures to protect consumers’ sensitive location data. This includes working to disable all sample offering accounts created by Near.”

A version of this article originally appeared on Gizmodo.



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