April 24, 2011

"Through... cellphone research projects, scientists are able to pinpoint 'influencers,' the people most likely to make others change their minds."

"The data can predict with uncanny accuracy where people are likely to be at any given time in the future...."
[A]t MIT, scientists who tracked student cellphones during the latest presidential election were able to deduce that two people were talking about politics, even though the researchers didn't know the content of the conversation. By analyzing changes in movement and communication patterns, researchers could also detect flu symptoms before the students themselves realized they were getting sick.

23 comments:

Freeman Hunt said...

This gives me a glimmer of the feeling people must have felt when they first heard about the successful testing of the atomic bomb.

rhhardin said...

Can they detect bullshit is the question.

edutcher said...

OK, now we really need a Right to Privacy Amendment to the Constitution, not just Louis Brandeis' say-so that it's implicit in the 4th Amendment.

PS Marketing has been doing data mining like this for a while, but, yes, it's really getting scary.

Oligonicella said...

Just like in The Trilogy, there will always be Mules.

It's also way easier to look at data after a fact (like an election) and 'see' the pattern. Doesn't mean the pattern will remain the same next election.

It also neglects that many people, once becoming aware of the tracking, will alter their behavior.

Synova said...

Reminds me of an Asimov book.

Synova said...

Ah, I see I wasn't the only one. ;-)

Bob said...

> OK, now we really need a Right to Privacy Amendment to the Constitution, not just Louis Brandeis' say-so that it's implicit in the 4th Amendment.


I agree, but what specifically would it say? Can you point us to some text that has been proposed for us to look at? Or suggest wording and have Althouse comment on it for us?

tim maguire said...

I don't think a right to privacy is implicit in the 4th amendment, exactly. But more directly to Bob's question of what would it say, IMO the Bill of Rights as a whole comprises a right to privacy. The whole thing doesn't make much sense without a right to privacy.

Or, conversely, the right to privacy is explicitly laid out in the 10th Amendment. That most hated of amendments that even most judges won't admit exists.

Larry J said...

There's already the long-neglected 9th Amendment:

"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

The assumption is that we have more rights that those that are specifically called out in the Constitution.

Doug Wright said...

@rhhardin's question is fine except that the question really should be a statement: "Bullshit!"

edutcher said...

Not being a lawyer or a legal scholar, I'm probably not the one to write out a sample. It would have to go beyond unreasonable search into the realm of public domain and electronic communication, since these are in plain sight, as it were.

That said, positing a right to privacy as an ephemeral part of the 9th or 10th Amendment wouldn't be any more effective than one woven out of the 4th. Anything that nebulous can easily be manipulated into whatever the Appellate Courts want it to be. Witness how Equal Protection has been stretched out of all recognition.

Ut said...

"OK, now we really need a Right to Privacy Amendment to the Constitution"

If you don't want your cell phone company tracking your movements then don't buy a cell phone that tracks your movements.

Apple is EVIL and tracks the movements of their customers without telling their customers or giving their customers a way to stop it. Of course, police and government will use this information against you in all sorts of ways you never thought of.

Apple is an evil company. But the solution is simple: If enough people stop doing business with Apple then Apple will change its policies.

Stop buying iPhones.

iPhones are being used against you.

Ut said...

Cross-posted to the two Twitter links above so that people will realize what Twitter is up to:

Twitter is tracking every tweet you read, and every statement that you post to Twitter can be subpoenaed by the government and used against you in a court of law.

Twitter is also tracking the location from which you Tweet as a means of determining your location in real time. It cross-references that information with the content of your Tweet and can thus predict all sorts of things about you.

Apple is tracking people without telling them.

So is Twitter.

So is Facebook.

Evil companies all.

David said...

"Can they detect bullshit is the question."

Including their own.

David said...

"Apple is tracking people without telling them.

So is Twitter.

So is Facebook."

This is a fact that has been hiding in plain sight. Are you pissed that you were later to learn about it?

Milwaukee said...

"It also neglects that many people, once becoming aware of the tracking, will alter their behavior.
"
Not necessarily. With video surveillance, people change their behavior for a while, and then revert to normal behavior. (Although, at my previous high school, students knew where to stand so as to not be seen on office cameras. Not enough cameras in the building. Damn.)

See, Apple isn't so evil. They were just getting ready to start diagnosing illnesses. Help with the whole health care thing. When phones are turned off, are they really off?

I heard Microsoft's new advertising market was based aroung the theme "Yes, but we're not as evil as Google." So who's not evil?

Chip Ahoy said...

I know where you've been.

Correction, you big silly, you know where my phone's been.

And I'd be okay with all of this if only my service were half as reliable as it's cracked up to be.

Can you hear me now?

No. I cannot, you are not coming through clearly at all, worse your calls are being routed to messaging because the system is overloaded right at the critical moment when I must buzz people through via the building's call box for a party that I'm hosting causing them to stand there outside until some helpful resident breaks with the rules and allows in a poor stranger or two holding a wine bottle.

Ut said...

This is a fact that has been hiding in plain sight. Are you pissed that you were later to learn about it?"

I don't do business with Apple, because they're an inherently evil company. So, no, I'm not pissed at all.

I do think, however, that most of Apple's customers do not know that Apple is tracking their every movement and will happily turn over that data to the government whenever the government wants it.

I think most Apple customers would be pissed off to learn that. And that's why Apple has been very misleading and opaque about what it does with that information.

Certain companies seem to exist solely as data mining organizations (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple). I don't have a clue what they'd do with that data ... but I can think of a lot of unpleasant uses for it and almost none of benefit to me.

Most of these evil companies donate to Democrats also ... and that's a huge, huge clue that they aren't the kind of company you want to support with your money.

They're evil, facist tracking companies.

Lucius said...

Part of this is the age-old banality of social scientists, who make little effort to conceal how Skinnerian they are; they set out deliberately, I think, to taunt you with the implication that to them you are only a machine, something to generate 'behaviors' they can observe and predict, like subatomic particles.

There's an unexamined voyeurism at work here. Note how often they speak of 'relationships'-- they can know, they can *predict* behavior in relationships. They don't spell out as much, but that word is laden; it's implications stretch even into the sexual. And they, the scientists, know all about your relationships!

Like smutty adolescents who have pored over their parents' purloined sex manuals, they salivate over the mechanical details. See, they know all about it! It's practically like they've already had it!

Thus with the model of the human psyche that prevails with these researchers. See, I know where you are! I can see everything you do! It's like I can see inside you!-- as long, of course, as we pretend that really there's nothing *inside* a person's body. No soul, not even a mind really. Just-- behavior.

Chip S. said...

I found this either pretty amazing stuff or really good bullshit:

"The most despondent place in the U.K. is an hour or so west of London, in a town called Slough."

Apparently this has been so since John Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim's Progress:

This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond: for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.

Christy said...

Free Will, Myth or Real?

The MIT study with the most interesting claims used subjects who knew they were being surveilled. Did the study outlast, I wonder, the hyper-awareness of being watched?

What were the factors which let them know someone had the flu but didn't know it yet? That is of interest to me.

In the 80's didn't we call those who influenced the rest of us "opinion leaders?" The article made it sound like the concept is new. BTW, Connie Willis has a novel, Bellwether, which explores the idea using chaos theory and statistical prediction.

reader_iam said...

Split by linguistic differences between a Flemish-speaking north and a French-speaking south, voters in Belgium set a world record this year, by being unable to agree on a formal government since holding elections last June. Belgium's political deadlock broke a record previously held by Iraq.

The calling patterns from 600 towns revealed that the two groups almost never talked to each other, even when they were neighbors.


This fascinates me.

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