Dozens of companies in the United States can legally track users’ location. Companies that can see exactly where users are doing what they’re doing, so they can identify users. According to the article titled “Twelve Million Phones, One Dataset, Zero Privacy” published in the Opinion section of the New York Times, anyone from high-ranking military members to law enforcement, from well-known lawyers to plain citizens can be followed.
Stuart A. Thompson and Charlie Warzel wrote in their article:
Locations appear as dots on the map, while longitude and latitude sizes that appear insignificant can be associated with certain people when combined with information that is accessible to everyone, such as a home address.
Thompson and Warzel describe how they follow people in this way:
The existence of this dataset brought up by Thompson and Warzel is an indication of how far technology companies have gone today. At this point, companies can watch people by waving their hands, while the fact that the law sanctions never get their hands on this issue is really thought-provoking. Apparently, legislators haven’t been able to keep up with the pace of technology yet.
The data set mentioned in the article belongs to a data company that focuses on specific locations. The data that the data company hosts consists of precise locations that third-party companies collect using software placed in phone applications.
Warzel and Thompson explain in the article:
The article clearly addresses where all the privacy requirements you approve without reading can carry you. When accepting privacy terms and terms, you may think that data will only remain in the app, but most of the time your data is sold to other companies. When you accept the terms and conditions of your privacy, if you’re not sure what information will be collected on your phone, you’re greatly jeopardizing both your privacy and your free will.
According to the Times, foursquare, as well as many unknown names, are among the companies that collect your exact location data. Companies often try to legitimise the situation by saying that data is anonymized, that the data collected is stored securely, and that people get approval. Warzel and Thompson, however, contactthe people on their data set to prove that the allegations are not true.
Let’s add that the duo works with a weakened data set. The companies mentioned in the article often use location data as well as other sources of information. These resources include mobile advertising IDs combined with demographic information to create the detailed profiles needed to target ads.
Warzel and Thompson describe this process in the article as follows:
Warzel and Thompson summarize what can happen after the data is transferred to third-party companies:
When we consider that all this technology is being used for advertising, we encounter a very heavy dystopia. Companies track them 24/7 by violating the same people’s privacy to enable people to purchase more products. This data then changes hands several times as a commercial product, and even our decisions about the products we purchase with qualified advertising targeting probably not belong to us.
The article, written by Warzel and Thompson, contains many more details. After reading the article, I’m sure you’ll be more sensitive about the permissions you give to the apps you use. However, as far as I’m concerned, the most important output of the article is that it’s the most important part of the article. encouraging legislators to adopt more detailed laws and regulations on this issue.
Visual Source: The New York Times