Metadata in Action

It has happened a year ago already, so the following is not exactly fresh news, but we have only come across this fascinating story recently and thought it may be of interest to our readers. In the EU, data are stored by ISPs and mobile phone carriers for a time period of six months. This EU regulation regarding data retention was actually declared unconstitutional by Germany's high court in 2010. However, Germany's telecom companies seem not to have gotten the word. A Green Party politician in Germany, Malte Spitz, has sued his carrier Deutsche Telekom for his own data after it refused to release them to him voluntarily. After he won the suit, he published the data in several formats. One shows a cluster of his movements over a 6 month period:




A cluster of Malte Spitz' movements over a 6 month period (via Netzpolitik).





The far more interesting version of the data is the moving one though, which is supplemented by other meta-data in order to create a disturbingly comprehensive profile. These data consist of the number of incoming and outgoing calls and text messages, the duration of internet access, as well as his tweets on Twitter, which were used to reconstruct his specific activities.

This 'metadata profile' can be watched (at varying speeds) by clicking on the link below:

Zeit online's profile of Malte Spitz' movements from his cell-phone and Twitter data.

And this is the kind of data that is retained in a country where the legal basis for doing so has actually been declared null and void by the constitutional court. Privacy has well and truly become a pipe dream.





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2 Responses to “What Mobile Phone Tracking Looks Like”

  • Vess:

    I am not at liberty to go into details, but trust me on this one (my profession is computer malware defense and mobile malware is my specialty) – a smartphone is not really a phone. It’s a spying device that lets you make phone calls. And the ISPs tracking which cells it has connected to is the least of your worries…

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