As recent discussions show, open data is a huge topic also in the geoinformation sphere. I think the political importance of this movement cannot be stressed enough. Opendata.ch invites tomorrow [German/French], January 19, to its founding event in Bern, Switzerland. I’ll be there! Let me know, if you’d like to join.
According to a presentation by two UK researchers at Where 2.0 conference, iOS4 devices constantly track and timestamp their location and dump that data into a file, which is shared with your desktop computer if you choose to backup your iPhone’s content. This presents a major potential for privacy breach.
For some phones, there could be almost a year’s worth of data stored, as the recording of data seems to have started with Apple’s iOS 4 update to the phone’s operating system, released in June 2010.
More information at O’Reilly.
A new method developed by Wang et al. claims to be able to geolocate IP addresses much (they claim 50 times) more accurately than has been previously feasible. The new method uses a three-tier approach: 1) sending a data packet and measuring how long it takes to bounce back, indicating an imprecise distance; 2) doing the same with all institutions with known geolocation (for example, universities or businesses) within 200 km distance of the first guess and comparison of bounce-back-times to refine the estimated location; 3) doing a similar refinement to 2) at a finer resolution.
By filing a legal suit against Deutsche Telekom German politician Malte Spitz (Green party) was able to obtain data recorded under the German preventive data retention act. He chose to publish the data which was collected in the timespan from August 2009 to February 2010 and encompassed exactly 35.831 individual records (Spitz’s phone checked for new mail every 10 minutes when it was switched on – which it was 78% of the total time). German Newspaper Die Zeit claims there is big (geo)profiling potential in such a data set. To prove the point they combined the telecommunication data with publicly accessible data such as Spitz’s tweets, blog posts and scheduled meetings as listed on the politician’s website and turned it into an animated visualization in collaboration with Berlin-based company OpenDataCity.
It’s indeed frightening what information can be gained by mashing the cellphone (a.k.a. tracking device) information recorded by a phone provider together with publicly accessible data on social media platforms and websites. And the analysis by Die Zeit hasn’t even used the most private information, namely whom Spitz called and who called him on his cell…
Some more background information is available on the Die Zeit website (thankfully by now also in English, I guess they figured the topic might be interesting to many).