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Location Data Really Isn't Anonymous
Researchers Show It's Easy to Identify Users
by Karl Bode 09:14AM Tuesday Mar 26 2013
Everyone in the mobile ecosystem, from app developers to your carrier, is now collecting every shred of mobile location data that isn't nailed down and are busily selling that data to whoever wants to buy it, from civil engineers to marketing agencies. Consumer privacy protections here are virtually nonexistent, and the companies making billions off of your daily life have been busy arguing that there are no need for new protections because the data they collect is anonymized.

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However, a new study by MIT and the Catholic University of Louvain studied fifteen months' worth of "anonymized" collected data from 1.5 million people, and found that people's routines are unique and predictable enough that ferreting out their identity is incredibly easy using just for location logs:
quote:
In fact, in a dataset where the location of an individual is specified hourly, and with a spatial resolution equal to that given by the carrier's antennas, four spatio-temporal points are enough to uniquely identify 95% of the individuals. We coarsen the data spatially and temporally to find a formula for the uniqueness of human mobility traces given their resolution and the available outside information.
If that location data is poorly secured, combining it with other databases creates unique and new privacy violation possibilities the researchers say we haven't really even fully started to fathom yet. The scientists tell the BBC they're not advocating that we stop collecting this data, though they do suggest we need to stop pretending it's truly anonymous, and consider additional privacy protections.

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28619103
Premium
join:2009-03-01
21435

Is Privacy the next Internet debate?

How does Apple do Location Services on a Mac. The systems don't have GPS, but Apple can track you pretty well. I can see how they can do home broadband with persistant IPs, but work with NATs, etc?

Pretty spooky and concerning.

Ctrl Alt Del
Premium
join:2002-02-18
kudos:1

Re: Is Privacy the next Internet debate?

Location Services on the Mac uses WiFi triangulation to estimate your location: »support.apple.com/kb/HT5403
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less talk, more music

firephoto
We the people
Premium
join:2003-03-18
Brewster, WA
said by 28619103:

How does Apple do Location Services on a Mac. The systems don't have GPS, but Apple can track you pretty well. I can see how they can do home broadband with persistant IPs, but work with NATs, etc?

Pretty spooky and concerning.

It is spooky, my wifi only idevice very accurately reports my location at my refurbished routers previous home 1500 miles away. It has consistently achieved this record for a full year too due to the fact that there is is something so special and unique and obviously valuable that these companies that collect this location data will not share it in an open manner with each other or anyone.

Want a real solution, start fighting for openness instead of fighting each different bobblehead that pops up with "free" solutions that are very profitable.

The best privacy isn't achieved by secrecy because secretly someone you don't know has the keys to what you value as private.
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Say no to astroturfing. actions > Ignore Author

dib22

join:2002-01-27
Kansas City, MO
said by 28619103:

How does Apple do Location Services on a Mac. The systems don't have GPS, but Apple can track you pretty well. I can see how they can do home broadband with persistant IPs, but work with NATs, etc?

simple... they maintain a database of SSID's... they then store GPS data gathered on iphones that are attached to the SSIDs.

you can keep google from doing this by adding "_nomap" to your SSID... so for example if your ssid is linksys, then linksys_nomap would keep google from associating a location with that SSID... there doesn't appear to be a way to make apple stop association.

»googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/···ess.html
lcnoble

join:2006-11-11
Nancy, KY

Nosey Busy Bodies

Pay attention to your patterns and predictability, for example, when you log on everyday, what time you go to work, when you get off work, where you go everyday, what web sites you visit, the order in which you visit those sites, etc.., then privacy goes out the door. What do you know about your neighbors by watching their daily routines through your house windows? Then make an equation that fits that pattern, and then an equation that fits another type of life style, then crunch the numbers with today's computing power and you will get a smaller set that is easier to search. We are all very predictable!

FreedomBuild
Well done is better than well said
Premium
join:2004-10-08
Rockford, IL

Doesn't surprise me

I figured as much, I'm thinking we need to be compensated for our individual Intellectual Properties & Proprietary Information...
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»www.rockfordremodeling.biz
»www.rockfordremodeling.biz/blog/

nothing00

join:2001-06-10
Centereach, NY

Re: Doesn't surprise me

"I'm thinking we need to be compensated for our individual Intellectual Properties & Proprietary Information..."

Of course, we're already being compensated. The wonderful service you're getting for a remarkably low price is being subsidized by your agreement to share your location data.

Remember, you had a choice between lots of carriers. Many of which don't collect location data and really strong privacy policies.

Hmm. Where's that sarcasm tag...?

FreedomBuild
Well done is better than well said
Premium
join:2004-10-08
Rockford, IL

Re: Doesn't surprise me

said by nothing00:

"Hmm. Where's that sarcasm tag...?

Yes, indeed, Perhaps this may be of interest. I think this pretty much sums up any and all service providers.

»www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ilMx7k7mso

--
»www.rockfordremodeling.biz
»www.rockfordremodeling.biz/blog/
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
japan
kudos:2
said by FreedomBuild:

I figured as much, I'm thinking we need to be compensated for our individual Intellectual Properties & Proprietary Information...

Intellectual property? Proprietary information?
dutenhnj

join:2002-01-29
Monroe, WI

1 recommendation

Foregone conclusion

I think it is pretty safe to assume that other than people who are paid to think location data is anonymous (anti-privacy lobbyists and congressmen for example), most everyone understood this already.
WHT

join:2010-03-26
Rosston, TX
kudos:5

1 recommendation

Copyright Your Data

Claim your location as a product of your original work and then call the copyright trolls.

On2ndThought

@verizon.net

Windows Phones

I recently decided to try a Windows 8 Phone and virtually every app I have considered downloading forces you to accept that you are enabling Location Services or it will not download to the phone. Scary stuff...
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
japan
kudos:2

Re: Windows Phones

Crazy app developers trying to create opportunities for revenue. How is it scary? At least you're being notified and you're able to make informed choices. The irony is that many people that complain about "privacy" (what does that mean anyway?) will happily click ok and install several of those "intrusive" and "offensive" apps.

hyphenated

@bellsouth.net

More popcorn

The scientists tell the BBC they're not advocating that we stop collecting this data, though they do suggest we need to stop pretending it's truly

Yeh they took that option away a long time ago. Now they can just slap us in the face and charge us for it. You can't stop collecting data now if you wanted to. What's the benefit of location data for th consumer? Every time I try to use it search for something near me it doesn't work anyway.
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
japan
kudos:2

Re: More popcorn

Location based search and advertising does work. As far as benefit to consumers, that will take time to quantify.

hyphenated

@bellsouth.net

Re: More popcorn

Yeh i know its a lot out there but from what ive seen it doesnt. I hate ads popping up in front of something im trying to do wasting my time, location based or not, no matter how accurate. Stuff like that doesn't work well enough for me. The only solid benefit (for everyone except consumer) is the statistic(s) and potential for increased sales just wanting even more $. Whatever

Just my 2 cents