Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Death of Privacy

A big hullaballoo has been made recently about the lack of privacy because of your iPhone storing data that can give away your movements. This is as nothing when compared to the collection of data about your life that can be reconstructed by collating the data that telecom companies possess and store about our movements, and the public domain data of our social network interactions (read, Facebook, Twitter et al). More ...

A German Green Party politician, Malte Spitz, sued and got data that his telecom provider, Deutsche Telekom, stored about his movements. In collaboration with a website, he then collated and put up in the form of an interactive map video all the data publicly available about himself over a 6-month period. The results are deeply shocking. 
The only time we do not know too much about him is at night, when (apparently) he puts off the mobile phone. It tells us when Spitz walked down some street, when he was in a car or train or airplane; where he was in the cities he visited; when he worked, and when he slept; when he could be reached by phone and when was unavailable; when he spoke on his phone and when he sent sms'es; which events he spoke at; and his tweets at relevant times; and even which restaurants he liked to visit.
Read this in the context of a recent SEBI decision that upheld a conviction for rigging share prices of a few companies based on a single witness's testimony that was perfectly borne out and supported by evidence of mobile phone towers that showed that the alleged conspirators all met at a particular restaurant in Dadar on a specified date during a specified time. All these conspirators had denied being present at that restaurant at that time. See also this insightful piece by Sucheta Dalal).
The inescapable conclusion is that privacy as we know it is dead. No one can escape the telecom companies, or Google Street, or Twitter or Facebook, or a combination of all these.

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