Vodacom and MTN LBS whistle-blower targeted in drive-by shooting

Bradley Goldblatt, the person who alerted police that location-based services (LBS) were used to track Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear’s phone, was targeted in a drive-by shooting.

Kinnear, who was a section commander in an anti-gang unit, was assassinated in front of his home in Bishop Lavis, Cape Town on Friday 18 September.

The subsequent investigation uncovered the unlawful use of location-based data from Vodacom and MTN to track his movement.

Kinnear’s phone was tracked from 08:00 to 15:25 on the day of his murder. He was assassinated at 15:00.

This case uncovered the widespread abuse of location-based data from mobile operators to track the movement of South Africans without their knowledge or consent.

This highly sensitive data was available to a wide range of companies, including vehicle tracking firms, security companies, and even credit bureaus.

These companies signed agreements with Vodacom and MTN to only use this data when a user-provided consent. This did not happen.

According to News24, this information was sold to individuals and private investigators who would pay to track people without their knowledge.

Wireless application service providers (WASPs) were therefore given full access to subscribers’ sensitive location data, with the understanding that they would not abuse this data.

Bradley Goldblatt targeted in shooting

Goldblatt, who is a former police officer, was an agent of the company 1TRACK, which provides security, monitoring, tracking and tracing services.

“We offer a full range of personal and corporate online real-time security tracking services,” the company’s website states.

1TRACK, in partnership with 3DT, made the LAD software platform available to third parties who could ping a smartphone that would then return the GPS coordinates of the device.

Goldblatt, who was linked to providing the alleged mastermind behind Kinnear’s murder, Zane Kilian, with LBS services, is now a key witness in the case.

News24 reported that Goldblatt’s house was sprayed with bullets in a drive-by shooting on Monday night. He is reportedly unharmed.

Goldblatt confirmed the shooting but would not provide any further details about the matter.

Kilian appeared in the Belville Magistrate Court on Tuesday for his bail application after numerous delays.

Kilian denies his involvement in the case, saying he can prove he was in a different location at the time of Kinnear’s murder.

He added that the username and password he used for location-based tracking were also provided to other people, which means he cannot be linked to tracking Kinnear.

Vodacom and MTN respond

After MTN was alerted to the abuse of its location-based services (LBS), it responded by shutting down access to nine wireless application service providers (WASPs).

These LBS operators typically used MTN’s services to offer security tracking or alert services to their customers.

The contract with MTN stipulates that tracking may only be undertaken where signed permission has been received from the WASP’s customer.

MTN asked the nine contracted WASPs to show that the people they tracked gave them permission.

This information was not forthcoming, and MTN subsequently cut all access to the location-based services for these WASPs.

“The required strict adherence to contractual requirements and individual permissions appears to have been ignored, resulting in the system being abused by the WASPs,” MTN said.

News24 reported that the location information of subscribers was sold to individuals and private investigators who would pay to track people without their knowledge.

“We are appalled by this abuse and will support any formal police investigation that will root out the perpetrators,” MTN said.

Vodacom, in turn, would not say how many companies have access to the location data of their subscribers.

The operator told MyBroadband it suspended the location-based services of one company pending further investigation.

Now read: Vodacom and MTN data linked to assassination scandal

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Vodacom and MTN LBS whistle-blower targeted in drive-by shooting