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[liberationtech] Mobile Phone Use Patterns: The New Fingerprint

Gregory Foster gfoster at
Wed Mar 27 08:27:06 PDT 2013

Thank you very much for sending this study.

One of the common assertions we are hearing about so-called "historical" 
geolocation data as compared to "realtime" geolocation data is that the 
greater geospatial accuracy of the realtime ping creates an increased 
privacy interest for the targeted individual. One can make the argument 
that the ever-increasing density of cellphone towers and femtocells 
makes historical cell site/radio locations as accurate as realtime 
pings/multilaterations.  But one also has to admit that cell towers out 
in some alleged rural area must cover "hundreds of square miles."

This study provides much needed validation of the intuitive 
understanding we all have that the historical record of our movements 
accumulated over time reveals much more about us than an isolated 
realtime ping.  And that we have a privacy interest in both forms of data.

Again, thanks for sending this.

On 3/27/13 8:24 AM, Enrique Piraces wrote:
> This may be of interest to the list, an interesting study.
> Mobile Phone Use Patterns: The New Fingerprint
> Mobile phone use may be a more accurate identifier of individuals than even their own fingerprints, according to research published on the web site of the scientific journal Nature.
> Scientists at MIT and the Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium analyzed 15 months of mobility data for 1.5 million individuals who the same mobile carrier. Their analysis, “Unique in the Crowd: the privacy bounds of human mobility” showed that data from just four, randomly chosen “spatio-temporal points” (for example, mobile device pings to carrier antennas) was enough to uniquely identify 95% of the individuals, based on their pattern of movement. Even with just two randomly chosen points, the researchers say they could uniquely characterize around half of the 1.5 million mobile phone users. The research has profound implications for privacy, suggesting that the use of mobile devices makes it impossible to remain anonymous – even without the use of tracking software.
> More:
> Best,
> Enrique Piracés
> Human Rights Watch

Gregory Foster || gfoster at
@gregoryfoster <>

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