Mobile devices can unknowingly disclose identity

Scientists say it is remarkably easy to identify a mobile phone user from just a few pieces of location information. Whenever a phone is switched on, its connection to the network means its position and movement can be plotted. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21923360 This data is given anonymously to third parties, both to drive services for the user and to target advertisements. But there are some glaring examples of how nominally anonymous data can be linked back to individuals, the most striking of which occurred with a tranche of data deliberately released by AOL in 2006, outlining 20 million anonymised web searches. The New York Times did a little sleuthing in the data and was able to determine the identity of “searcher 4417749”. Recent work has increasingly shown that humans’ patterns of movement, however random and unpredictable they seem to be, are actually very limited in scope and can in fact act as a kind of fingerprint for who is doing the moving.to connect a mobility trace to an individual, but that users freely give away some of that information through geo-located tweets, location “check-ins” with applications such as Foursquare and so on.purpose is to provide a mathematical link – a formula applicable to all mobility data – that quantifies the anonymity/utility trade-off, and hope that the work sparks debate about the relative merits of this “Big Data” and individual privacy. “Science and technology constantly make it harder to live in a world where privacy is protected by governments, respected by corporations and cherished by individuals”

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