Stephen Baker

The Numerati
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Should it bother me that Apple knows where I am?

April 21, 2011Privacy

I read these stories that Apple collects users' location data, and I lament: Why do I bother writing articles no one apparently reads! In a BW story in February, 08, I wrote about Sense Networks, and the analysis of vast amounts of user data that they got from cell phone companies.

If you read the coverage and are worried about the disclosure of location data, there are steps to take to keep it private. But I think the great majority of people would rather spill the data than suffer the inconveniences. For starters, any cell phone use leaves a trail of our movements, whether or not we have the map function activated. So drop the cell phone. Second, credit card purchases describe many of our movements. Visa could map my trip to the Midwest last week, even pinpointing the restaurants and bars I visited in Madison, and comparing me and my behavior to the rest of eating and drinking humanity, and placing us all in "tribes."

I was happy to see, as I drove to the Midwest, that EZPass has spread to the Midwest. So now instead of throwing quarters anonymously into bins in Illinois and Indiana, I drove through and the toll booth registered my location. I could go on and on. When writing the Numerati, I concluded that people, while they care in principle about privacy, usually opt instead for convenience and economic savings. I know I do.

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