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« Asserting Context: A Prerequisite for Smart, Sensemaking Systems | Main | The Christmas Day Intelligence Failure – Part I: Enterprise Amnesia vs. Enterprise Intelligence »

August 16, 2009


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Lou Clark

Chris Tucker stratagized around 3G phone networks making a lot of this possible and Dom Brezinski worried about personal "discoverability" just like this in 2000 or so. (Dom had a friend who was apparently successful at going "off the grid": 1 key was no mortgage,no debt (no bank)).


irt avoiding anything that could generate a data-trace to avoid avoid being monitored, it may not even be practically feasible to do so at some point in the future. Society may orient itself so much around use of these devices and technology that to not participate would make life extremely difficult: I may not want to take my future cellphone with me, or leave YellowFang deactivated, but it'd mean I'd be unable to anything basic, such as purchasing necessities, or even crossing the street (i.e., vehicular traffic control is cued off the presence of these devices).

I'd suppose the only real protection would be, as suggested, to make sure people have rights and access to all of the data that is collected on them, and have the ability to be aware of the inferences that can be drawn from that data. But even then, that's not necessarily ideal, considering that there may still be very real disparities in data collection and processing capabilities, as well as actual ability to do anything about incorrectly drawn inferences.

lewis shepherd

Jeff, brilliant stuff. You go into the analytics business, I'll go into the spoofing business to provide defeat/disorient/disrupt tools and mechanisms. A virtuous $ynergy of data-hunger and paranoia!

David LaPlante


Thanks for the amazing post and insight. Fiction is becoming reality faster than we expect!

I remember reading Neal Stephenson's "Hack the Spew" short story in Wired 2.10 (October 1994) and thinking that he had basically a crystal ball to help him.

And it prompted me to quit mucking around with casino player tracking systems and dive into the Internet full-time and start a business that would be at the forefront of making this fiction reality.

You're post prompted me to go re-read it (yet again) and it's uncanny how everything you just described is essentially in his short story of 1994!

Here's the link:

Ziv Baum

Very interesting post. Thanks!

Re the "feedback loop" idea that you suggested toward the end of your post, Locaccino, a Facebook location sharing app ( has an elegant implementation of this idea, that actually works.

Users are asked to define rules, based on friends-list, time and location, to decide who can locate them. They are then given an auditing functionality that allows them to see who tracked their location, where and when - and to provide feedback on these results.

Usage patterns shows that users indeed feel much more comfortable with sharing their location.


Predictions about changes in consumer behavior as a result of consumers reviewing feedback (including predictions)about their movements could be very interesting.

More might choose the great inconvenience of going off-grid which then creates a stir in sudden disappearances.

Poof! Shall I go next?

Doug E.

So why is it that cell phone providers are allowed to sell my location data to third parties? And if they are selling information about me that they obtained by providing me a service that I paid for, should not that information belong to me? So one way to think about this is from the perspective of property rights. We have all kinds of property rights - intellectual, real estate, etc. Why not information property rights. If you take this to its logical conclusion, perhaps the cell provider should be paying me for the right to sell my location data to others. So instead of having to pay a monthly bill to the cell provider, I get a check in the mail each month instead!


Great blog!

There is a subfield of the discipline of geography called "time geography." Time geographers study individuals' allocations of time among activities in space and its implication for collective dynamics and outcomes such as traffic, neighborhood dynamics, urban sprawl and sustainability, social networks, the spread of infectious disease, exposure to environmental toxins, and even security and crime.

Time geography is a rich and active field of study that is being revolutionized by space-time activity data such as the type generated by cell phones, GPS, RFID and other "location-aware technology."

For a review of this field and its latest developments, please see a review paper I published a couple years ago:

Miller, H. J. (2007) “Place-based versus people-based geographic information science,” Geography Compass, 1, 503-535.

Here is a link to the PDF:

Other papers on these topics can be found at my website (under "Research"):

Randy B

Why don't we just implant microchips in the heads of every baby born from now on?
I advocate for a law expressing that we each own our personal data and genomic information and it's use beyond certain basics needs authorization from us.

Account Deleted

One other way to track people time & location data - is simple phone with BlueTooth tracking application like
It's can report to cloud any device around with enabled BlueTooth, without any consent.
So no matter what cell operator they have, most people can be tracked anyway.
I personally think it's for good and waiting to more result of such data mining come to our reality.

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