The Texas State Police have acquired an Israeli phone-tracking software, as part of Governor Greg Abbott’s controversial border control initiative, Operation Lone Star. The Department of Public Safety obtained the software to aid in tracking individuals crossing the Texas-Mexico border unlawfully, a crisis declared by Abbott in 2021.

 

The software, Tangles, is a product of Cobwebs Technologies, an Israeli surveillance company. Tangles offers a multitude of surveillance tools, such as social media tracking, app activity monitoring, facial recognition, and phone tracking. This news surfaces as Abbott’s border control methods are intensifying, amidst reports of migrant mistreatment and a Justice Department lawsuit regarding his use of razor wire along the Rio Grande.

 

In 2021, the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Intelligence and Counterterrorism division purchased a year’s worth of Tangles access for $198,000, according to documents obtained by watchdog organization Tech Inquiry. Since then, the contract has been renewed twice, despite a temporary delay in April due to Cobwebs’ failure to pay Texas taxes. The Department also purchased “unlimited” access to Clearview AI, a contentious facial recognition platform.

 

The Texas government has faced criticism for its civil liberties policies, particularly with Operation Lone Star. There have been scandals, including migrant detentions without charges, and personnel suicides. Further investigation is needed to understand how Tangles will be used within this controversial border enforcement regime, considering its powerful tracking abilities and potential misuse.

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