Anonymous Cell Phone Data Easily Identifiable
Turns out that with just a few data points from a location-tracking cellphone, most people are easily identified most people, a new study found. Just four random points are enough to put names to 95 percent of the anonymized users in a cellphone database.
The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports and looked at 15 months’ worth of location data from 1.5 million cellphone users in a “small European country.” The data was similar to what is shared from Apple and Android, with a location tagged from phones and their closest cellphone tower once an hour.
The team figured out the math to identify 95 percent of the phone-users from just four randomly selected data points. Given 11 data points, they could identify all of the users.
Once you have location data, it’s easy to figure out a lot of private information — where people live, if they attend certain religious or political meetings, visits an HIV/AIDS or reproductive clinic, or hangs out with an ex or a business rival.
Makes you think twice about sharing location data with your apps, doesn’t it?