Using location data

One of the speakers at last week’s National Cyber Leap Year Summit was Jeff Jonas, the founder of the company that became IBM’s Entity Analytic Solutions in 2005. He talked about the amount of location data that’s available and what you can do with it. It was a very interesting talk. It seems that the funding for Jonas' technology originally came from In-Q-Tel, the organization that essentially acts like the venture capital arm of the CIA. You'll soon understand why they funded him.

It’s easy for wireless companies to track the location of the devices on their network. In the case of cell phones, for example, the E911 system provides both caller location and identification. Other technologies have similar capabilities, and it turns out that databases of location and caller identification are routinely sold to third parties. The data is anonymized (if that’s really a word) before it’s sold, but that apparently doesn’t really provide much protection because there are technologies available that can easily identify who caller 0123456789 really is, even though his true identity has been replaced with 0123456789.

It’s also apparently possible to identify a person from just a few pieces of location data. By tracking where your cell phone is during the day, for example, it’s easy to get a very good idea of where you live, where you work, and other similar information. With just a few pieces of such data it’s possible to determine who the person carrying the phone is.

It seems that every day we see more and more proof that Scott McNealy was right when he said, “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.”

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