What your phone knows

iu-1Does this article about the Sunday eating habits of Chik-fil-a customers make you uncomfortable?

Analysis from Fort Worth-based Buxton Live Mobile Insights sheds light on where Chick-Fil-A customers go on Sunday when the restaurant is closed. The company tracked location data from the mobile devices of customers on Chick-fil-A properties Monday through Saturday, and then studied where those same customers ate on Sundays.

Buxton told The Dallas Morning News it “purchases and analyzes consumer location data from multiple data aggregators where the data is collected from mobile devices which have pre-opted in to location services tracking.”

I’m not sure what the difference between “pre-opted in” and “opted in” is, but either way, I’m pretty sure what the phone users did – they gave the some apps and web sites access to location data (so maps work, so they can find local businesses, so they can check in on Facebook) and now all that data is getting hoovered up for research like that.

I don’t think there’s anything particular shady about this particular piece of research… but I think the people who are being tracked would be surprised about how it’s being used.

In the hands of market researchers it helps figure out where the people who love processed chicken product in breading like to go. (In Texas, by the way, Whataburger is preferred Sunday option.) But what about, say, the Chinese government keeping track of where Uighers are? Or Saudi Arabia using phones to identify who pops up at gay meeting spots? The possibilities are endless.

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