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Cell Phone Tracking Reveals Users' Habits 180

Posted by timothy
from the there-and-back-again-must-be-the-shire dept.
DinkyDogg writes "'New research that makes creative use of sensitive location-tracking data from 100,000 cellphones in Europe suggests that most people can be found in one of just a few locations at any time, and that they do not generally go far from home.' More interesting than their conclusion, however, is how they got their data. 'The researchers said they used the potentially controversial data only after any information that could identify individuals had been scrambled. Even so, they wrote, people's wanderings are so subject to routine that by using the patterns of movement that emerged from the research, "we can obtain the likelihood of finding a user in any location." The researchers were able to obtain the data from a European provider of cellphone service that was obligated to collect the information. By agreement with the company, the researchers did not disclose the country where the provider operates.' Any guesses which European country requires cell phone providers to record where their customers make calls, and then allows them to give that data away without disclosing that they have done so?"
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Cell Phone Tracking Reveals Users' Habits

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  • by jawtheshark (198669) * <slashdot&jawtheshark,com> on Sunday June 08, 2008 @05:08AM (#23699027) Homepage Journal

    My typical day is: wake up, shower, go to work, be at work 8h (I don't go out for lunch), go back home, cook, eat, relax, sleep. That adds up to 2 places where I'll be, and anywhere on the highway to work. Add in grocery shopping in one of the two nearby supermarkets and you pretty much know where I'll be on any given day Monday to Friday.

    On weekends it might be a bit more complex because I go to the recycling centre, eventually visit my parents or my wifes parents, go to a restaurant, the movies, but even then.... What is it going to add up to? A dozen places?

    This only proves that we're routine-animals. That's all....

    • by bloodninja (1291306) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @05:16AM (#23699053)

      My typical day is: wake up, shower, go to work, be at work 8h (I don't go out for lunch), go back home, cook, eat, relax, sleep. That adds up to 2 places where I'll be, and anywhere on the highway to work. Add in grocery shopping in one of the two nearby supermarkets and you pretty much know where I'll be on any given day Monday to Friday.

      This is why I walk my dog a different route each day. I don't even know what route we will take until we are back. It adds a little bit of surprise and a little bit of uncertainty into an otherwise very uniform and repetitive existence.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Ouija dog. Patent it. Now.
      • by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:56AM (#23699587) Homepage Journal
        Dogs like routines. Don't you know you are causing great mental anguish to your pet?

        You are a cruel pet owner.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 08, 2008 @05:34AM (#23699117)
      I vary my route to and from work just a little each day...to keep the terrorists guessing. It's the only way to be sure.
    • by harry666t (1062422) <harry666t&gmail,com> on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:05AM (#23699421)
      Interesting. On the contrary, I never know where I'm going to wake up after a party. Once I woke up in a hotel in another city.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by blindseer (891256)

        Interesting. On the contrary, I never know where I'm going to wake up after a party. Once I woke up in a hotel in another city.


        Do you still have both of your kidneys?
    • by mh1997 (1065630) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:42AM (#23699521)

      This only proves that we're routine-animals.
      And for the most part, you probably visit the same websites on any day.
    • by sgt_doom (655561)
      Test Subject #247:

      Located at local brothel, lunching with lobbyist or at the bank cashing humonguous lobbyist checks.

      Conclusion: My senator or congressperson.

      Test Subject #541:

      Located at local brothel and lunch.

      Conclusion: Just the mayor......

      Biz Flash! Join G-Bay, the specialty auction site for politicians to the highest bidder.

  • by plasmacutter (901737) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @05:16AM (#23699049)

    The researchers were able to obtain the data from a European provider of cellphone service that was obligated to collect the information.


    well.. im not going to feel vindicated or anything, the implications are that orwell is rolling over in his grave fast enough to generate free energy for the entire planet if you were to assemble a turbine around him.

    so now they know what youre saying, or browsing on the web, and are able to watch you marked on a map as you move from one place to another.

    so, when are you voting out the people who did this? at least most western nations outside the US have more choices than tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum
    • by Moraelin (679338) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @08:14AM (#23699655) Journal

      so, when are you voting out the people who did this?


      Umm, I wasn't aware that you can "vote out" a telco. (Or we would have voted out the dimwits from the Deutsche Telekom a long time ago.) Much less that you can vote out some researcher which doesn't even live there.

      There were some data retention and privacy laws that were definitely broken. Which I strongly suspect is why they put an explicit condition to not be named. And from there it's up to the police and courts to apply those laws. I don't think you can vote on _that_. And it's probably better so, because justice isn't and shouldn't be a popularity contest.

      The voting in and out has to do with the fact that we got those laws in the first place. You know, instead of weasel arguments about how the 4th amendment doesn't apply (A) to the government (then to who the heck _does_ the US constitution apply?), or (B) if it wasn't literally your papers or house being searched, or (C) by conveniently defining that if it happened over some company's lines, it's in public and noone really needs a warrant to observe that, or (D) if it allows a company to earn a few more bucks, or a few other variations.

      And _if_ any politician wanted to make this thing legal, or give them a free pass, _then_ we'll vote him out. But I really doubt that they will. At worst we'll see some impotent posturing, and claims that it's impossible to determine who and whether a law has actually been broken or the researcher in case has just invented the data. (Which I strongly suspect he'll claim, once the ball starts rolling.)

      But seriously, I doubt that any major politician, at least in Germany, will want to be seen as officially on the side of letting any company sell your data to the highest bidder. Although the country did slide a bit to the right lately, it's by far not at the point where anyone wants to be seen as arguing that the corporations should have unchecked power over their customers. It would be a _very_ unpopular point of view, and their political opponents would use it to the max to their own advantage. Sometimes even members of their own coalition.

      (Here elections usually don't get "won" by any party, but about some uneasy coalition of several parties, to total more than 51% between all of them. With the implication that if you make yourself extremely unpopular, you might not even need to wait for the next elections to be voted out: a coalition can reform the other way around over night, moving you from head of the winning coalition to the largest opposition party. It's not a usual occurrence, but it can happen.)

      But anyway, we'll wait and see. So far it's hardly some orwellian government plot, it's just one company which broke the law. It happens in the USA too, without always meaning that it reflects some government stance. See, for example: Enron [wikipedia.org].

      From here, it can go in a lot of possible directions, not just "it's the way the government wants it". If it goes the wrong way, we'll vote some politicians out. If not, not. It's really that simple.
      • by drew (2081) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @01:13PM (#23700999) Homepage
        I believe the GP was talking about voting out the people who passed the laws obligating the phone company to collect the data in the first place. TFA is a little short on detail, but it sounds like, far from having broken the law, the telephone company was actually complying with the law by collecting this data. There is no mention about whether laws were broken in sharing the data with the researchers who performed this particular study. However, the point remains that somebody is legally required to have this data, and whomever that "somebody" is, they have this same ability to track individual users. And now, thanks to this research, we understand the implications of that.
        • There is a law that requires them to collect the data, _but_ (1) only now it goes into effect, if it's the one I'm thinking of, and (2) it _does_ specify that they're not allowed to share or even access it without a court order. So, yes, a law was broken.

          Look, let's put it like this: if you think your telcos, or any other company isn't collecting data about you anyway, you're an idealist. While actually requiring them to collect it was probably dumb, don't imagine that it wouldn't have happened in the USA a
    • by MrMr (219533) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @09:29AM (#23699877)
      The (putative) sanity of the EU is not really the issue. It appears that the provider and the researchers have violated the EU legislation, and especially "Directive 95/46/EC on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data" ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Directive_95/46/EC_on_the_protection_of_personal_data [wikipedia.org] ).

      For instance with respect to this article:

      Personal data are defined as "any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person..."

      I'm not sure 'anonymizing after billing' as the authors did is sufficient to make the data non-personal (the gist of the article is after all that you can be identified by your stereotypical movements...)

      Data may be processed only under the following circumstances (art. 7):

              * when the data subject has given his consent
              * when the processing is necessary for the performance of or the entering into a contract
              * when processing is necessary for compliance with a legal obligation
              * when processing is necessary in order to protect the vital interests of the data subject
              * processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the controller or in a third party to whom the data are disclosed
              * processing is necessary for the purposes of the legitimate interests pursued by the controller or by the third party or parties to whom the data are disclosed, except where such interests are overridden by the interests for fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject

      None of those conditions seem to be met...

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by plasmacutter (901737)
        Look, they are legally obligated under EU legislation to carry data on EVERY CUSTOMER's MOVEMENT for a considerable period of time.

        This isn't about whether or not the company violated EU laws in giving it to another private entity. It's about the fact that data is being held for the government, and is being held PERIOD.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by MrMr (219533)
          Yes, they are obliged to store non-anonymized data for a maximum period of 18 months, but that crappy legislation only got passed with the explicit provision that it may only be used for specific police inquiries.
          The telephone companies are certainly not allowed to do their own data-mining or to hand over that data to varios research groups. In fact, if that has happened here, we may yet see the whole data-retention farce being reversed.
          O yeah, period to you too.
    • "at least most western nations outside the US have more choices than tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum"

      There is the perception that Europeans have so many more choices when voting, because they have more parties. So, when voting in national elections, they may have a choice between the Democratic Socialists, Socialist Democrats, Labor, Tories, Greens, ad nauseam. And in local elections, the same. So they have 5 different choices of party for 2, perhaps 3 offices.

      Contrast this with the US. When I vote this fal
  • by hweimer (709734) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @05:18AM (#23699061) Homepage
    Contrary to what the paper suggests, the data has not been anonymized. Proper anonymization means that you cannot derive correlations between the behavior of the individuals, which was the whole point of the paper.

    I don't know the exact legal situation in every European country. However, in EU countries this is regulated by the Directive on the protection of personal data [wikipedia.org], which requires for scientific use that safeguards have to be taken to prevent the identification of individuals. For some countries like Germany this means that the data has to be anonymized, although it is a grey area whether pseudonymization is sufficient.

    More details on that matter can be found on my blog [quantenblog.net].
    • I Disagree (Score:4, Informative)

      by FurtiveGlancer (1274746) <(moc.loa) (ta) (yuGhceTcoHdA)> on Sunday June 08, 2008 @05:55AM (#23699209) Journal
      "Anonymized" may be defined as data that cannot be traced to a named individual. Individuals may still be tracked by other means (arbitrarily assigned number, vice real phone number) to determine patterns without violating individual privacy. So long as they don't specify home addresses, cell numbers or other personally identifiable data, this is valid anonymity.

      Of course, this is different from claiming that the data would be used for statistical puroposes only. This study used the data for sample correlations beyond bulk statistical analysis.
      • by Kjella (173770)

        So long as they don't specify home addresses, cell numbers or other personally identifiable data, this is valid anonymity.

        What part of "cell phone patterns with actual towers are personally identifiable data" do you not understand? Armed with something as simple as the phone directory (home address) and my CV (hometown from history+recent work places as a consultant) I'm pretty sure you can conclude that user 3254632 is me, and that also means you have my location information for all the other private places I go. That's not anywhere near anonymous.

        • No one has released your CV into the wild other than you or someone violating privacy laws. You have the option in most countries of maintaining an unlisted number and address. You can elect to be removed from most on-line directories as well. You also have the more extreme option of doing without a cell phone.

          To my knowledge, no one has released specific arbitrary numbers and the locations associated with them. Most importantly, each cell tower serves an area hundreds of yards to perhaps a mile or m
      • Individuals may still be tracked by other means (arbitrarily assigned number, vice real phone number) to determine patterns without violating individual privacy.

        Okay, so consider your "average" home: four cellphones, which are all in the home. Two of them go to the local school five days a week. Two of them go to the football field every sunday.

        Work out who's mom, dad, son and daughter. You've tracked them to their home, so you know their address. Go look at the mailbox. Now you have their names.

        How's this anonymous again?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by GuldKalle (1065310)
          No, you haven't tracked them to their home. You have tracked them to their cell tower, which covers a lot of space (my nearest cell tower here in suburbia has a radius of about 1700m according to Google maps mobile).
    • "Proper anonymization means that you cannot derive correlations between the behavior of the individuals"

      Census data is disseminated using the same techniques so I hardly think it's a good reason to question the results (as opposed to the ethics). Perhaps you were thinking about double-blind experiments?
    • by nguy (1207026)
      Contrary to what the paper suggests, the data has not been anonymized. Proper anonymization means that you cannot derive correlations between the behavior of the individuals

      Right objective, wrong terminology. You are looking for terms like "privacy preservation" and "personal data protection", not "anonymization". Anonymization does not protect privacy, which is a well-known problem.
    • *snip* which requires for scientific use that safeguards have to be taken to prevent the identification of individuals. *snip*
      But it doesn't store it that way, and when the government comes calling ( the real concern here ) they don't have to 'clean' the data.

    • by HangingChad (677530) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @08:55AM (#23699775) Homepage

      Contrary to what the paper suggests, the data has not been anonymized.

      You're exactly right. Give me access to cell phone location data and I'll be able to identify the individuals. If they know people don't wander far from home, then they know where home is. And where work is. It'll take all of ten minutes to add a name to a pattern of behavior. The concern becomes a group that lacks collective conscience...like the Bush administration....starts using anonymous data to look for suspicious patterns of behavior. Justifying the surveillance by suggesting that they're not spying on individuals, merely looking for suspicious patterns. Sound familiar?

      Then think about how that could be abused. I was watching a news story about a local anti-terror exercise that involved the feds and local law enforcement. The DHS spokesperson actually said that any criminal activity can be used to support terrorism so anti-terror exercises get muddled together with law enforcement. Every criminal is a potential terrorist. It's happening in the banking industry. The monitoring provisions were put in place to look for terrorist activity, but now banks are reporting any suspicious transactions down to $1,000. Anyone think Elliot Spitzer was a terrorist? The monitoring program that netted him was put in place to monitor for terrorists but once it became obvious Spitzer was not funneling money to Al Qaida, the investigation continued under the mantle of law enforcement. Okay, so law enforcement starts monitoring cell phone GPS data looking for suspicious patterns of behavior, at first looking for terrorists, but since any crime potentially supports terrorism, it starts getting more widespread and granular. Going to a particular street in a particular part of town...like a mosque...could flag you. Sending money to a family member overseas or just being in the vicinity when a crime takes place. Maybe law enforcement starts using cellular GPS data to locate potential witnesses. Want to explain to the boss why the cops showed up and wanted to know if you saw anything while visiting the "entertainment" district last night?

      The anonymous element is an intellectual dodge. There's nothing anonymous about your pattern of behavior, it's as unique as a fingerprint. This is real 1984 kind of stuff.

      I'm more afraid of widespread monitoring than terrorism. Once you start chipping away at the edges of privacy it's hard to get back. And, right now, we're paying billions of our tax dollars to create an agency that regularly pounds our right to privacy with a sledgehammer.

  • New Physics (Score:5, Funny)

    by brunokummel (664267) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @05:28AM (#23699093) Journal

    ...that most people can be found in one of just a few locations at any time,

    Forget those losers, I wanna know about the people that can be in 2 or more locations at the time!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Keruo (771880)
      > I wanna know about the people that can be in 2 or more locations at the time!

      It's called MultiSIM. Same phone number can be used on multiple phones.

      Though I'm not sure how GSM network would react if I cloned IMEI address of two phones to identical and used multisim with them.

      • by Sique (173459)
        Only if someone tries to reach you the phone which last registered with a GSM tower, wins. Might get interesting if both phones are moving around and are constantly re-registering :)
  • Odd conclusion (Score:4, Interesting)

    by thedrx (1139811) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @05:32AM (#23699111)
    Any guesses which European country requires cell phone providers to record where their customers make calls, and then allows them to give that data away without disclosing that they have done so?

    This is not necessarily the type of data they collected.

    Here in Europe, in some countries, cell phone companies offer a service that can reveal a phone's location (with the precision of a fraction of a kilometer/mile) at any given time from any place actually. It's useful for tracking your phone when it gets stolen, or spying on your spouses.

    However, the owner of the phone must consent to this service. Any tracking (except maybe for aid in criminal investigations?) without the owner's consent would be very illegal. And I suspect what happened here, is the company collected data of such consenting owners.

    Whether they consented to having their data used in research, well, that's another matter.
    • Re:Odd conclusion (Score:4, Informative)

      by Richard W.M. Jones (591125) <rich@annexia. o r g> on Sunday June 08, 2008 @05:48AM (#23699175) Homepage

      Here in Europe, in some countries, cell phone companies offer a service that can reveal a phone's location (with the precision of a fraction of a kilometer/mile) at any given time from any place actually ... Any tracking (except maybe for aid in criminal investigations?) without the owner's consent would be very illegal.

      Very definitely this is used in criminal investigations. In the case of the Soham murders [wikipedia.org] back in 2002, one of the victims had a phone which the murderer had turned off. In a public appeal the police said they'd sent a message to the phone, trying to trick the murderer into turning the phone on (which would reveal its location).

      In fact this trick didn't work, but mobile phone location data was still crucial. Police plotted all the walking routes [mobilemonday.net] around where the phone was last located just before it was switched off, and from this found the suspect (later, murderer's) house and also disproved his alibi [bbc.co.uk].

      Rich.

    • Here in Europe, in some countries, cell phone companies offer a service that can reveal a phone's location (with the precision of a fraction of a kilometer/mile) at any given time from any place actually.

      Down to a fraction of a kilometre sounds a bit optimistic. Such services track a person's location using the location of the cell tower they're currently connected to, they do not use triangulation so the radius can be quite wide. In some rural areas the radius could be up to 8km.

      However, the owner

  • by Idaho (12907) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @05:36AM (#23699125)
    If you think the USA is bad with regards to telephone taps and the like, try the Netherlands.

    Last year, in the Netherlands 25,000 phones where tapped (for different periods of time). These are published numbers (I could link to them but the articles are in dutch only so, well..)

    In the USA, the official numbers are somewhere around 2200 phone taps (in 2007).

    But that's not all; keep in mind that the USA has over 300 million inhabitants. The Netherlands has only 16 million.

    So either the USA government is doing a much better job of keeping even the fact that phones are tapped at all hidden from public scrutiny, or it really is much, much worse here (in this regard, at least).
    • by value_added (719364) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @06:01AM (#23699237)
      So either the USA government is doing a much better job of keeping even the fact that phones are tapped at all hidden from public scrutiny, or it really is much, much worse here (in this regard, at least).

      Much worse only begins to describe it. The Netherlands have more than 10x the number of terrorists we do.
      • by Sique (173459)
        That just because the U.S. keeps their terrorists offshore, so they don't taint the statistics.
        • by mpe (36238)
          That just because the U.S. keeps their terrorists offshore, so they don't taint the statistics.

          And may be better at calling them something else compared with the Dutch.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by piemcfly (1232770)
      The big difference is that those 25000 taps in the Netherlands are all approved by a (sort-of) independent body ('rechter-commisaris', not sure of the english term for that, but it's an oversight judge). Those numbers are all out in the open. In the USA, the whole FISA thing is in shambles.

      Of course that doesn't mean there are no illegal / secretive taps, it's common knowledge that there are (for example, by using new wiretap techniques that are not mentioned in the law police are able to circumvent the
      • by mpe (36238)
        The big difference is that those 25000 taps in the Netherlands are all approved by a (sort-of) independent body ('rechter-commisaris', not sure of the english term for that, but it's an oversight judge). Those numbers are all out in the open. In the USA, the whole FISA thing is in shambles.

        There's also the issue of how long does the tap go on for and how much oversight there is. As well as how that 25,000 number relates to telephone numbers and/or people. Also if permission is granted to tap someone's pho
    • by Z00L00K (682162) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @06:30AM (#23699309) Homepage
      I read it as official numbers are the number of taps by "normal" police, i.e. local and FBI, probably mostly FBI.

      And then we have NSA, CIA, DHS... Do you believe they will provide any kind of statistics? It's all about deniability.

      And of course - there is a rule of evidence in the US, this means that illegally acquired evidence can't be used. So that in turn means that "anonymous tip" can be an acronym for wiretapping, which in turn can lead to other means of surveillance and evidence gathering. To add to this it's possible to do a setup to obtain plausible deniability. Why do you think that the US have so many different agencies that overlaps?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by scheveningen (305408)
      Tomtom High Definition maps dutch traffics jams on Vodafone location data. So yeah, my guess too would be the land of the free below sea level.
  • A potential hint as to the featured country might be the name of the author of the project:

    âoeSlices of our behavior are preserved in these electronic data sets,â said Albert-LÃszlà BarabÃsi, an author of the project and the director of the Center for Complex Network Research at Northeastern University in Boston. âoeThis is creating huge opportunities for science.â

    As if the obvious Hungarian name wasn't enough, his wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org] states he's lived in Hungary and Tr
  • by polyp2000 (444682) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @05:40AM (#23699147) Homepage Journal
    It wouldnt surprise me if it was Britain. Every day i learn something new that makes me despise living here. After all we are generally regarded as being the most spied on nation in the world.

    The other day i realised that my entire journey from home to work i am exposed to at least 15 cameras along the entire journey. We have cameras on streets, platforms ,buses and trains. When I worked in canary wharf it was more like double that as i needed to use the Tubes which are also littered with CCTV. Some of them actually talk (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/6524495.stm)

    While I appreciate its "there to protect us" Im afraid i dont trust the people who's job its to monitor them.

    So that's why i wouldnt be at all surprised if it was the UK tracking moves - after all they are tracking everything else.
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Menwith_Hill)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I pretty much agree with everything you say - but RAF Menwith Hill is a bad link; only security is provided by the MoD - the actual site and all the sooper-seekrit spy stuff is run by the US Air Force...

      Mind you, my understanding of Echelon is that it's a great way to bypass annoying local laws; Canada spies on US citizens and passes the intel to the US, Australia spies on Kiwis for the NZ government, Menwith Hill spies on British citizens - all nice and clean and local intelligence agencies don't get thei

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Z00L00K (682162)
      Do you think that anybody seriously monitor those cameras?

      I think that they are there more for us to think we are monitored all the time and then occasionally we may happen to end up on YouTube [youtube.com].

      • by giafly (926567)

        Do you think that anybody seriously monitor those cameras?
        In the UK they don't. My bank card got cloned in an ATM within view of six cameras and nobody has been arrested. I think criminals simply wear hoodies or baseball caps and hide their faces. Also a neighbor's husband had a job watching these things and he gave up alerting the police to street crime because they never bothered to respond quickly enough.
  • by Idaho (12907) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @05:42AM (#23699151)
    Actually some countries use (allegedly) anonymized cell phone data to track traffic jams. This seems to work quite well. At least there have been several experiments and the idea seems promising.

    I would consider this a completely legitimate use of the data. However I highly doubt that it is properly anonymized, but that's a different matter.

    This could explain why such data was gathered in the first place. If you can still track particular users, it is not anonymized at all however.
    • by jabuzz (182671) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @05:51AM (#23699195) Homepage
      The data is *VERY* useful in retrospect for tracking down criminals and terrorists after the event, and providing evidence to secure convictions. Within a couple of days of the failed 21/7 bombings in London for example telephone records had enabled them to track one of the suspects to Rome where he was promptly arrested and deported back to Britain. The whole lot where tracked down within a week.

      As for anonmyization, you may be able to track individual users, but if you have scrambled the locations so they are no longer meaningful (ie. they do not represent any real coordinate system) I guess it would be pretty difficult to unpick it. That is the x,y location information is arbitrary coordinates and not the lat/long or whatever local grid is in use.
      • You could still match the information to a map, basically the first thing I thought after wondering if they could make it truly 'anonymous'. Someone above even said that the routes in this study match Germany, with some routes even leading into other countries!
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @06:02AM (#23699241) Homepage
    Is that it gives the government even less excuse to use no-knock raids for crimes that could easily be handled by regular police work. Take the case of Ryan Frederick [codemonkeyramblings.com], for example. The police created a situation where they ended up losing an officer after they attacked the house of a suspected drug dealer (who shows all signs so far of being completely innocent). Had the police gotten his cell phone information and mapped his daily routine, they could have discretely caught him by surprise in a public place, taken him in for questioning, and the only one going to jail would have been the police informant who lied his ass off and victimized both sides. This cell phone tracking actually gives civil libertarians an argument as to why these raids cannot possibly be justified in most cases because the police can figure out where the person is going, and ambush them when they have the advantage (something they don't have when assaulting a home).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nicolaiplum (169077)
      ... is that the Police could and should have knocked.
    • by mikael (484)
      This cell phone tracking actually gives civil libertarians an argument as to why these raids cannot possibly be justified in most cases because the police can figure out where the person is going, and ambush them when they have the advantage (something they don't have when assaulting a home).

      Or alternatively, they can purchase a high-tech hand-held radar system to see through walls [cambridgeconsultants.com]

      Why couldn't they have simply waited for him to leave his house when he was going out to work?
  • Tin-foil hat time! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Capitalist Piggy (1298699) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @06:11AM (#23699263)

    Any guesses which European country requires cell phone providers to record where their customers make calls, and then allows them to give that data away without disclosing that they have done so?"


    It's funny to watch headlines attempt to troll out tin-foil hat crowd. This data seems much more useful for the development of cities than it would for evil advertisers or jack-boot government thugs who can find you through any number of measures and come get you whenever they feel like it.

    Personally, I don't care much about folks knowing my routine. Wow, I go to work, come home, go shopping, go for a walk, and head off to the same few places every weekend. If data for a better mass-transit system or better roads was to result, that'd be great.
  • ...I've left my cellphone at home, now they'll think that I never leave my house and don't get out much!

    Wonder what they'll think if I attach my phone to FIDO?
  • most people's cell phones can be found in one of just a few locations at any time, and that they do not generally go far from home
    There, fixed it. Of course, the really interesting journeys far from home are made by leaving the phone behind.
  • by viking80 (697716) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @06:59AM (#23699409) Journal
    Here is some of the anonymous data:
    Anonymous 1: Arrives at 10 downing st. every evening at 21:00, and goes to work at 08:00
    Anonymous 2: Arrives at Buckingham every nite at 23:00, but sneaks out at 01:00 and goes to the big oak tree in Hyde park. ....
    Anynomous 31415: Sneaks out from 45 Lexington in Soho, and goes the the big oak tree in Hyde park. .... ....
  • Any guesses which European country requires cell phone providers to record where their customers make calls, and then allows them to give that data away without disclosing that they have done so?"

    That would be the UK.
  • I am not sure are they allowed to save the data, but sure as hell they do use cell phone based locationing A LOT around here.

    It's old news of services like locating your friends by visiting a website, getting closest restaurants, pubs, kiosks, supermarkets etc. to your phone as SMS from your service provider etc.

    As well as police have the right to track all cell phones, and even lock out any cell phone permanently if stolen. (Some even claim that finnish cell phones have a destructive method to do that, fry
  • Note that all US mobile carriers are required to track or have the ability to track phone location to comply with the 911 laws.

    Key issue in the US is whether cell phone location falls under "common carrier" or "business record" legal status. If it is covered by "common carrier", then like the contents of your conversation, you have an expectation of privacy, police need a warrant to obtain the information and the cell phone company can not sell or use the information for other purposes.

    If phone loca

  • According to this article [switched.com], Rome was city used by MIT researchers to create real-time maps of people moving around the city.

    As you sit in your car amongst thousands of others, sweating even as the AC chugs, the question lingers: how can you remove traffic from your life? Researchers from MIT may have the answer: starting in Rome, they're using data from mobile phone networks to create real time maps of people moving around the city, giving commuters a more detailed, wide-ranging view of traffic conditions --
  • Any guesses which European country requires cell phone providers to record where their customers make calls, and then allows them to give that data away without disclosing that they have done so?

    "Oh, I don't know ... could it be ... BRITAIN?"
  • OK, I want public disclosure of this data for every elected official in Washington and every registered lobbyist.

  • Tracking cell phones (Score:2, Interesting)

    by imrtt (1287370)
    Step-by-step guide on how to track your own phone online: http://www.instamapper.com/diytracking.html [instamapper.com]
  • When I attended the DIMVA conference [gi-ev.de] I watched a presentation where the propagation of a worm was analyzed. This analysis was done with the session informations of swiss provider backbone routers (like date and time and IP addresses involved in conversations). That data was easily obtainable by the researchers by requesting it as data used for scientific research. But the researchers had to anonymize the data for the presentation, of course. But hey, if it's that easy to get to that kind of information (ju
    • You're forgetting something.

      Not every country is as soft about enforcing Data Protection as the UK Information Commissioner has been made (and even that is changing). Any disclosure of the underlying data can lead to jail time in some countries, and even that is based on an assumption that the providers didn't anonymise the data before handing it out (which would be an obligation in most nations AFAIK except for the UK Government when it's planning on losing CDs).

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