Study Secretly Tracked Cellphone Users

The Associated Press is reporting that researchers secretly tracked the locations of 100,000 people outside the United States through their cell phone use, concluding that most people rarely stray more than a few miles from home.

Of course, their conclusions aren’t the issue, even if they’re pretty interesting (three-quarters stayed almost exclusively within about a 20 mile radius of their homes for half a year). The real problem is the “secret tracking” part. The “first-of-its-kind study by Northeastern University raises privacy and ethical questions for its monitoring methods, which would be illegal in the United States.”

The article said that researchers used cell phone towers to track individuals’ locations whenever they made or received phone calls and text messages over six months. In a second set of records, researchers then looked at another 206 handsets that had tracking devices installed, and was able to retrieve location records every two hours over a week’s time period.