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Smartphone Meta Data: How much do they know about you?

Updated on March 24, 2014
Is your data safe?
Is your data safe? | Source

Smartphone Meta Data Reveals Your Information

Smartphone users generally consider their phones to be safe and secure. But little do most people realize, your personal information can be made available from your phone, even if you just make a call or two.

A study conducted by two students at Stanford University has recently found that personal information such as medical data, interests, hobbies, relationships and more can be revealed by meta data surveillance.

The study consisted of 546 participants, each required to use their phone numbers in an application (MetaPhone). This application tracks phone numbers calls, the time these calls were made, how long these calls lasted, the location of each person in the call and so on. However, the study has revealed that meta data can not only provide access to the aforementioned data, but also personal medical records, your interests, hobbies, likes and more.

What did the study reveal?

The study revealed some interesting statistics regarding their participants. The researchers were able to determine that over 50 percent of their participants made a medical call, and at least 40 percent of the participants made calls concerning financial aid or financial services.

The researches were even able to identify a participant who had a serious medical condition, naming the condition with accuracy.

According to one of the students, it was surprisingly easy to uncover the activities of their participants based on their meta data. They had no trouble inferring what individuals were doing with accuracy based on their logged meta data. This is a concerning notion, suggesting that those who have access to such meta data on a larger scale (the government, corporations) will be able to profit from this information.

Who uses (abuses) this information?

The researchers of the study were surprised by the results they found. They were not expecting to reveal so much personal information, and to be able to do so with such ease and simplicity. They have claimed that meta data available from smartphones can be used to accurately make inferences, and would therefore be of interest to advertising companies and governments. If the wrong group of people were able to obtain this information, it could easily be used for profit, without considering privacy issues.

Governments around the world frequently deny that they make any use of this meta data information. However, it has been made clear in the past that governments around the world do have access to such data. The Australian government has recently denied the use of such meta data information. Tony Abbott, the current Prime Minister, claims such information is not even obtainable through meta data from smartphones.

Even Facebook has been under speculation in recent times. Facebook has access to a large amount of valuable user data that could easily, but illegally, be sold to advertisers. Facebook has denied these allegations time and time again, but users continue gain suspicion towards the ever growing social media giant.

Can you imagine a world where your private information is no longer private? A world where you can no longer make a phone call without it being tracked, traced and logged.

Well, the fact is, we already live in that world.


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