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Researchers Track Movements Of Mobile Users

EFF IN THE NEWS
June 9, 2008

News of a recent study that tracked the movements of cell phone users outside the U.S. has given a fresh case of the creeps to a society that is steadily growing accustomed to the likelihood that their every move is being tracked.

A team of researchers from Northeastern University in Boston, working in conjunction with an unnamed wireless carrier, tracked the movements of 100,000 subscribers using anonymized data from cell phone towers that handled their phone calls and text messages over a six month period. The researchers did not disclose the geographical location from which the data originated.

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The researchers appear to have made some dangerous presumptions in terms of deciding for others whether they should be concerned about the loss of their privacy, says Matt Zimmerman, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, based in San Francisco. "This wouldn't be legal in the U.S., the laws are fairly clear about doing that here," he said.

But given the increasing moves by research and marketing interests to find utility in personal data, and the fact that more personal data is being tracked than ever before, Zimmerman expects these types of issues to continue.

"As we get more gadgets that are more trackable, there will be more pressure from people to utilize the value that they see there. The question is, will there be a law to give people a say in how their information is used?" Zimmerman said.

Friday, June 6, 2008
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