Even This Data Guru Is Creeped Out By What Anonymous Location Data Reveals About Us
When Edward Snowden blew the lid off of the NSA’s mass surveillance program, he also revealed the extent of the government’s smartphone location tracking records. As the Washington Post reported in 2013, the NSA is gathering 5 billion records a day on people’s cell-phone locations across the globe in order to track terrorists and identify their associates. While the U.S. must often take the data surreptitiously, however, advertisers are already getting many of our locations legally, through our smartphone apps; mining that and other data fuels the billion-dollar businesses of some of the world’s largest companies.
And as a number of studies have shown, even when it’s “anonymous,” stripped of so-called personally identifiable information, geographic data can help create a detailed portrait of a person and, with enough ancillary data, identify them by name.