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Untappd, a popular beer-rating app, can easily be manipulated to identify and track military and intelligence personnel, according to a report in the investigative open-source journalism and research outlet Bellingcat.

Zoom in: In one case, Bellingcat located an individual who “checked in” multiple times from Camp Peary, commonly known as “The Farm” — a highly restricted Virginia military base where CIA operations officers are trained in spycraft.

  • This person then “checked in at military locations throughout the Middle East, and has logged an additional 700+ check-ins at 500+ unique locations,” according to Bellingcat. 
  • In another case, a user uploaded a photo of beer — with military documents lying on his or her desk.

The bottom line: Digital trails make surveillance of individuals much easier than in the past. For government officials, using even harmless-seeming apps — like ones that rate beer! — can provide foreign intelligence services with massive troves of information useful in tracking top-tier espionage targets.

Between the lines: The trend is gradually rendering it impossible to conduct the traditional kind of human spying, say intelligence officials. Now, spies have to “hide in plain sight,” accept that their identities may be known and rely on superior tradecraft to keep their work secret.

Go deeper

NSA releases guide on data dangers posed by devices and apps

Photo: Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images

The NSA on Tuesday released a detailed guide on the dangers that cellphones, Internet of Things devices, social media accounts, and vehicle communications may pose to military and intelligence personnel.

The big picture: There are a whole host of ways devices like smartphones can be used to track individuals’ every move, and the NSA concludes that ditching them may be the only surefire way to avoid tracking by a determined adversary.

Netflix tops 200 million global subscribers

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Netflix said that it added another 8.5 million global subscribers last quarter, bringing its total number of paid subscribers globally to more than 200 million.

The big picture: Positive fourth quarter results show Netflix's resiliency, despite increased competition and pandemic-related production headwinds.

Janet Yellen plays down debt, tax hike concerns in confirmation hearing

Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen at an event in December. (Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images)

Janet Yellen, Biden's pick to lead the Treasury Department, pushed back against two key concerns from Republican senators at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday: the country's debt and the incoming administration's plans to eventually raise taxes.

Driving the news: Yellen — who's expected to win confirmation — said spending big now will prevent the U.S. from having to dig out of a deeper hole later. She also said the Biden administration's priority right now is coronavirus relief, not raising taxes.