Your mobile phone is watching you ... closely
By Darren Quick
March 31, 2011
While most of us know it is theoretically possible for our movements to be tracked by detecting which tower our mobile phone is connected too, it might come as a shock to see just how much of a digital footprint we leave as we go about our daily lives. German Green Party politician Malte Spitz and German newspaper Die Zeit have provided a frightening insight into just how much information can be gleaned from the digital breadcrumbs we drop every day by creating an interactive map showing Spitz's movements and activities over a five month period based on mobile phone data and information freely available on the internet.
To get hold of his mobile phone data, Spitz sued his service provider, German telco giant Deutsche Telekom. He then provided the phone data, which included geolocation and time and date information, to Die Zeit who combined the data with information freely available on the internet – including Twitter feeds, blog entries and websites – that related to his life as a politician to create an interactive map of Spitz's movements and activities.
And before you start thinking a public figure like Spitz is going to generate more data than your average man in the street, you might want to take a moment to consider just how many tweets, blog posts and Facebook updates you fire off on a daily basis.
In the age of ubiquitous computing and technologies such as RFID chips, the ability for corporations and governments to track not only our movements but also our activities is only set to increase and raises questions about the rights of individuals to privacy in the digital age. But as shown by Die Zeit's interactive map, which was based on data collected from August 2009 to February 2010, the information required to form a pretty detailed picture of our lives is already out there.