Home > Public Domain Data > Your location information is for sale–Article

Your location information is for sale–Article

A recent article in the New York Times reinforced a major theme of our book and this blog:  That your location is being captured, bought, sold, and used.  The article begins with a compelling image of over 235 million locations captured from more than 1.2 million unique devices during only a three-day period in 2017.  The article also features an animation of a smartphone user’s journey from home to work and to other locations atop a 3D satellite view of that person’s neighborhood.  It is my hope that this compelling and high-resolution animation, as well as those featured as streaks and points of lights in an even more compelling follow up article from the New York Times, will help people to pause and consider location privacy in a way that text-based posts like ours on Spatial Reserves might not adequately do.

The article also includes the results of a test that the staff had run:  To evaluate location-sharing practices, The NY Times tested 20 apps, most of which had been flagged by researchers and industry insiders as potentially sharing the data. Together, 17 of the apps sent exact latitude and longitude to about 70 businesses.  Having written the Public Domain Data book with Jill Clark and co-authoring this blog for 7 years, I’m not at all surprised by these figures.  Are you?

Geospatial technology is key to the efficient management of our complex world, and location is fundamental to that technology.  These tools and data have long enabled decision-makers to plan for a more sustainable and healthier future.  They are also becoming increasingly used by individuals to save time, save fuel, become more physically fit, and make smarter decisions in their daily lives.  These tools are not–and should not–go away.  But as we have stated in these essays–people should be aware of the information they are sending, on purpose and inadvertently, and why it all matters.

–Joseph Kerski

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