Your mobile phone knows everything about you … and it is telling

We know your mistress, your bank manager, and the boys on the football team you coach…


17 August 2009

We knew the potential existed already, of course. Mobile devices in the USA generates some 600 billion transactions per day, each tagged with the location and time. Jeff Jonas says, Every call, text message, email and data transfer handled by your mobile device creates a transaction with your space-time coordinate[…]. Got a Blackberry? Every few minutes, it sends a heartbeat, creating a transaction whether you are using the phone or not. That is some 7 million transactions per second, on average.

The mobile operators have this data, of course. We all know this (especially here at CYBAEA, where we have been using some of it for social network analysis), at least in principle. No real surprises here, except perhaps in the volumes.

But did you know that the operators are sharing your data? What is new, at least to me, is that this data is being provided to third parties that are leveraging specially designed analytics to make sense of our space-time-travel data. With the data out and specialized analytics emerging, this infant industry is already doing some pretty amazing work. Your space-time-travel data makes where you live and where you work self-evident, and it reveals your most frequent, periodic, infrequent and rare destinations.

This is powerful stuff. I can’t validate Jeff’s claim that the network operators are sharing their detailed network data in any systematic way and for anything other than research purposes, but surely it is only a matter of time. This data is too good to ignore — super-food for analytics, as Jeff calls it.

Think about the possibilities. We obviously know where you live and where you work, but also who is in the house with you (your wife, hopefully) and which of your office mates join you for the Friday afternoon beer.

We know which department stores and malls you visit. We know where in the stores you spend the time. We know your hobbies, your interests, your friends, …. We know your mistress and your bank manager, your colleagues and the boys on the football team you coach. We know where you shop and when you shop, we know your commuting route and that you always stop at Starbucks for a coffee on the way in. We know it in real-time so we know you are going to be late in the office this morning. Would you like us to let them know that you will be there at 09:23 (or 09:12 if you do not stop for that coffee on the way)?

There are so many possibilities. Much good could be done with this data. Some bad. Which service would you like to see developed?