The Navy Bought ‘Global’ Surveillance Data Through Adtech Company Owned by Military Contractor

nContext looks like an ordinary adtech or marketing company. It's actually owned by military contracting giant Sierra Nevada Corporation.
A screenshot of nContext's website and a screenshot of the Navy contract.
Images: nContext and 404 Media. Collage by 404 Media.
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This article was produced with support from The Capitol Forum.

A section of the Navy bought access to a tool that gave the Pentagon “global” surveillance data via an adtech company that is owned by a U.S. military contractor, according to a Navy contract obtained by 404 Media. Beyond its global scale, the document does not explicitly say what specific sort of data was included in the sale. But previous reporting from the Wall Street Journal has shown that the marketing agency and government contractor responsible are part of a supply chain of location data harvested from devices, funneled through the advertising industry, onto contractors, which then ends with U.S. government clients. 

The news provides one of the clearest examples yet of how the online advertising industry is not just fertile ground for surveillance, with myriad companies harvesting sensitive data from peoples’ phones and computers and selling that information ultimately to law enforcement, but also one that is actively being exploited by military agencies. 

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