Tech Report: Your Whereabouts Predicted Based On Smartphone Use

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A man using two smartphones. (Indranil Mukherjee/Getty Images)

A man using two smartphones. (Indranil Mukherjee/Getty Images)

LarryMagid01-228 Larry Magid
Larry Magid is a technology journalist and an Internet safe...
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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— Researchers at the University of Birmingham in England report they’ve come up with a formula that can predict where someone will be based on data analyzed from that person’s smartphone.

Scientists who conducted the research have said they can forecast that person’s whereabouts within 60 feet.

What’s interesting about this study is that they’re looking at the data that you can collect about individuals based on their cellphone use. Clearly the most important thing is where they’re going and what they’re doing at any given time. When you correlate that data with information about their social groups; their friends their colleagues and people that are meaningful for them, then you basically get predictors.

KCBS Technology Analyst Larry Magid:

For example, if you know where somebody has been and you know where their friends are going to go, you have a pretty decent idea as to where they’re going to go to. If you want to predict what restaurant they’re going to go to or what movie they’re going to or where they’re going to take a drive or walk, you could do that theoretically if you had enough data about their habits and the habits of their social group.

Essentially it’s a marketer’s dream to know what people are likely to do and what they want to do and then to get the product in front of them. Marketers are now going to be able to sell you things based on what you and your friends have been doing.

It’s invasive enough that when we go on a search engine that we’re getting sold things based on our search habits. They’re even tracking cookies that are looking at where we’re going on the web. However, based on this kind of theory you could be marketed to simply for what you’ve done in the past and there are some real privacy implications.

The data that can be collected from your cellphone includes where you’ve been, (because your location can be tracked) the people you call, the people you tweet or interact with on Facebook and also the apps you run. Your location can also be tracked through the pictures you take. There’s an enormous amount of information that can be collected through your phone.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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