To all those wringing their hands about face-tracking

June 6, 2008 by Dave Haynes

From an Associated Press story:

Researchers secretly tracked the locations of 100,000 people outside the United States through their cell phone use and concluded that most people rarely stray more than a few miles from home.

The first-of-its-kind study by Northeastern University raises privacy and ethical questions for its monitoring methods, which would be illegal in the United States.

It also yielded somewhat surprising results that reveal how little people move around in their daily lives. Nearly three-quarters of those studied mainly stayed within a 20-mile-wide circle for half a year.

The scientists would not disclose where the study was done, only describing the location as an industrialized nation.

Researchers used cell phone towers to track individuals’ locations whenever they made or received phone calls and text messages over six months. In a second set of records, researchers took another 206 cell phones that had tracking devices in them and got records for their locations every two hours over a week’s time period.

That’s a lot more interesting and worrying than gaze-tracking cameras will ever be, and  if people want to drum up worries about privacy, that’s the sort of thing that really does start to make one wonder.

Of course, if the industrialized country was Canada (doubt it), and they were tracking me, about all they’d learn is that I go to the airport a lot and can be pretty reliably found in the Fairview Street LCBO around 6 every Friday.

Analytical gold, that stuff.

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