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‘We traced a phone inside the Capitol to Mr. Vincent’s home in Kentucky.’

In a new piece for The New York Times, writers Charlie Warzel and Stuart A. Thompson detail—and not for the first time—how our smartphones feed a so-called “surveillance economy” that annihilates personal privacy in real and unexpected ways.

Warzel and Thompson obtained a file from an unnamed source containing location data tied to “thousands of Trump supporters, rioters, and passers-by in Washington, D.C.” on the date of the insurrection at the Capitol. This data was generated by smartphone apps for the sake of digital advertising, and although it is supposed to be anonymized, Warzel and Thompson demonstrate how easily it can be pinned to individuals.

For example, they were able to use the data to track pest exterminator Ronnie Vincent’s path from Kentucky to the Capitol. “ ‘There is no way that my phone shows me in there,’ he said. Yet it did.”

“To think that the information will be used against individuals only if they’ve broken the law is naïve; such data is collected and remains vulnerable to use and abuse whether people gather in support of an insurrection or they justly protest police violence, as happened in cities across America last summer… None of this data should ever have been collected,” the authors conclude.

Anyone with a smartphone should read the full article, which is also filled with striking visualizations, by following the link below:

For more on the topics of tracking and surveillance capitalism, I also recommend these stories from OneZero:




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Damon Beres

Damon Beres

Co-Founder and Former Editor in Chief, OneZero at Medium

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