In February, The Prototype reported on the Australian student who uncovered the location data of coalition soldiers in Afghanistan whose daily jog around an airfield inadvertently de-anonymised themselves through the Strava fitness app. This week, an investigation team bought “anonymous” but highly detailed mobile phone location data from a digital marketing house, then “easily” worked connected mobile phone owners to the decimalised location details.
The results are creepy and disturbing. A Weight Watchers meeting, a visit to Planned Parenthood, to doctors and to an ex-boyfriend’s home were among the daily destinations that built up a quite detailed and continuous daily travel diary in 21-minute increments with up to an astonishing 14,000 locations recorded in a single day. Users give their electronic consent to the apps transmitting the data, but they rarely understand the implications to their personal privacy or how marketing companies might interpret location data to gain an advantage against consumers. The trend towards “surveillance capitalism” platforms is poorly understood but increasingly pervasive.
This story is featured in the 14 December 2018 edition of The Warren Centre’s Prototype newsletter. Sign up for the Prototype here.