The New York Times – Times Opinion was able to identify individuals from a trove of leaked smartphone location data.”…The sacking of the Capitol was a shocking assault on the republic and an unwelcome reminder of the fragility of American democracy. But history reminds us that sudden events — Pearl Harbor, the Soviet Union testing an atomic bomb, the Sept. 11 attacks — have led to an overreach in favor of collective security over individual liberty that we’d later regret. And more generally, the data collected on Jan. 6 is a demonstration of the looming threat to our liberties posed by a surveillance economy that monetizes the movements of the righteous and the wicked alike. The data we were given showed what some in the tech industry might call a G-d-view vantage of that dark day. It included about 100,000 location pings for thousands of smartphones, revealing around 130 devices inside the Capitol exactly when Trump supporters were storming the building. Times Opinion is only publishing the names of people who gave their permission to be quoted in this article. About 40 percent of the phones tracked near the rally stage on the National Mall during the speeches were also found in and around the Capitol during the siege — a clear link between those who’d listened to the president and his allies and then marched on the building. While there were no names or phone numbers in the data, we were once again able to connect dozens of devices to their owners, tying anonymous locations back to names, home addresses, social networks and phone numbers of people in attendance. In one instance, three members of a single family were tracked in the data. The source shared this information, in part, because the individual was outraged by the events of Jan. 6. The source wanted answers, accountability, justice. The person was also deeply concerned about the privacy implications of this surreptitious data collection. Not just that it happens, but also that most consumers don’t know it is being collected and it is insecure and vulnerable to law enforcement as well as bad actors — or an online mob — who might use it to inflict harm on innocent people. (The source asked to remain anonymous because the person was not authorized to share the data and could face severe penalties for doing so.)…”
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