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Wednesday, 27 March 2013 13:18

Four calls reveal all your personal data

Written by Nick Farrell



So much for Internet anonymity

It is impossible for anyone to be anonymous on the internet when your mobile phone reveals everything about in over about four phone calls.

According to Nature, an international team led by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that data derived from mobile phone networks, using just the location of radio masts, could identify the vast majority of people from just four pieces of information. While an anonymised dataset does not contain name, home address, phone number or other obvious identifier, if individual's patterns are unique enough, outside information can be used to link the data back to an individual.

Looking at data collected over 15 months from 1.5 million people, the boffins worked out that human mobility traces are highly unique. This means that a list of potentially sensitive professional and personal information that could be inferred about an individual knowing only his mobility trace.

It is possible to work out the movements of a competitor sales force, attendance of a particular church or an individual's presence in a motel or at an abortion clinic.


Nick Farrell

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