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Mobile Tracking Would Be Great, If It Weren’t Illegal. (What, Everything Has To Be Perfect With You?)

November 16th, 2011

Unlike a “real” cell provider, the ping it sends is blank: It neither sends nor receives any actual data (it doesn’t capture cell phone calls, nor does it provide a cell phone service). Essentially, all it knows is that there is a cell phone nearby with a particular identification number and a certain signal strength to its transmitter. Add a couple more transmitters, and voila! Through the magic of triangulation, you can now know the exact position of that cell phone. But you won’t know the name of the owner—well, at least not yet.

The U.S. Supreme Court will be deciding a case that was argued last week considering whether Americans have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in their locations when they are not inside their homes. In that case, the government, without a warrant, installed and monitored a GPS transmitter on a suspect’s car.

Although this mall technology might not identify specific individuals, it raises a bunch of privacy red flags. First, the instant the consumer identifies himself or herself anywhere in the mall (say, by using a credit or debit card to buy something), it is a trivial task to cross reference the cell phone data with the payment data and realize that the person hanging around outside the Victoria’s Secret dressing room was your 70-year-old neighbor.

Despite the fact that the mall security cameras are capturing some of this data, the ability of the proposed technology to “slice and dice” the data makes it creepier still. If you walked into a mall and there was a sign that said, “Hey, we are going to use your cell phone to collect information about where you are going in this mall, who you are hanging out with and where you are going next. Thank you and have a nice day,” I am sure you would be creeped out. As a retailer with locations in a mall, you have two choices. Don’t ask; don’t tell: Don’t ask the cell phone where it is (e.g., don’t collect the data) or don’t tell the customer that you are doing it. Personally, I vote for the former.

If you disagree with me, I’ll see you in court, buddy. If you agree with me, however, I would love to hear from you.


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Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
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