It’s been revealed the US Federal Bureau of Investigation has been using information collected and stored by Sabre, the world’s largest travel data holder, to conduct widespread and extensive surveillance the world over, with company staff instructed by Bureau agents to “actively spy” on targets, even while they’re in the midst of travelling.
Forbes reports that in December 2019, the FBI asked Sabre for “real time” weekly surveillance of Indian fugitive Deepanshu Kher for a period of six months, providing agents with “travel orders, transactions or reservations” for Kher, who was eventually caught in January this year and placed under house arrest.
FBI reportedly uses a travel company's data for worldwide surveillance. The FBI has reportedly used a massive repository of travel data from Sabre to surveil people worldwide, including at least one in real time. https://t.co/A5iFT6fnok— autocloud (@autocloud) July 19, 2020
The order is reportedly one of at least four where Sabre agreed to provide such traveller information. In 2015, the FBI was hunting Aleksei Yurievich Burkov, whom investigators suspected was running Cardplanet, a US$20 million online marketplace for buying and selling stolen credit card data. Burkov was eventually extradited from Israel in November 2019 and pleaded guilty to charges of fraud, identity theft, computer intrusion, wire fraud and money laundering in January.
Sabre originally made headlines after it helped US authorities retrace the paths of the 9/11 hijackers after their attack. However, its ongoing relationship with security services, and willingness to watch suspects and known criminals upon request, without the knowledge or consent of the individual(s) in question, were hitherto unknown – and raise significant privacy concerns.