It can’t be denied. People in the US are being tracked. And if they are being tracked, it can be assumed that most people in different parts of the world are also being tracked. New York Times has recently shared a report about the state of about 12 million phones in one dataset having no privacy at all. There are numerous companies that log your movements through your smartphone but are storing data in large files. A project known as ‘ Times Privacy Project’ has looked into the location tracking industry.
The tracking industry does exist but it is not clear how companies do it exactly. Knowing this won’t give people a peace of mind but confirmation of what we suspect all along. What’s astounding though is the size of the data collection. Journalists and researchers have looked into a set of over 50 billion location pings from phones of some 12 million Americans. The pings move across different states and cities in the country.
The data was given by anonymous sources to Times Opinion. The large file contains location information about an individual phone from several months 2016 to 2017. The sources wanted to share the data because they were afraid of the possible abuse so they wanted to share with the authorities and the public.
The data file is indeed alarming because it shows people can be really tracked. Information given includes the kind of homes and areas they live in from every kind of neighborhood. Some examples of a tracking search showed people going to the Playboy Mansion and the estates of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tiger Woods, and Johnny Depp. Some apps being used in the cities covered may have been tracked too.
So what company does this? Not just one. They say they do it because people consent to be tracked. The also said data is secure and data is anonymous anyway. They’re not entirely true because real names can be matched or identified or even searched for online. Looking for other information about a phone’s owner is very easy especially if other info about him is provided.
Companies are saying data are anonymous so there should be no problem. To prove a point, the NYT tried identifying people of power and authority like military officials with supposed security clearances. They were then tracked regularly from home to even their children’s schools. No naming has been done but the Times researchers have a list.
The information that can be searched, identified, and gathered from the large data is there already. Any detail can be leaked. All these can be considered a crime and scandal. According to Times, the purpose of the study is to mainly “document the risk of underregulated surveillance”—— and document they did.
It’s not ideal but it’s interesting to see how people’s lives happen, change, and can be destroyed as they go about their everyday lives. Times said it’s like reading a diary of someone.
Everything can be tracked and hacked. That’s the reality. We can set measures and standards to prevent them from happening but it is what it is. Just always be careful in giving consent to apps and companies. You may turn off sharing locations or maybe even checking-in to different apps.