from the drop-in-the-bucket dept
Just a few days in the past, Motherboard revealed they had been in a position to buy the situation information of tourists to Deliberate Parenthood clinics for simply $160 from an organization named SafeGraph. Whereas SafeGraph refused to remark on the time, they’ve since written a blot publish asserting they’ll be ending the apply. However not with out spending a lot of the weblog downplaying apparent potential hurt:
…there are all the time excessive hypothetical nook instances, and in some instances these are price actively stopping.
In mild of potential federal modifications in household planning entry, we’re eradicating Patterns information for places categorised as NAICS code 621410 (‘Household Planning Facilities’) from our self-serve “store” and API to curtail any potential misuse of its information.
Just like the final dozen corporations caught in location information scandals, SafeGraph implies this was all an over-reaction as a result of they noticed no examples of the information being abused (not that they spent a lot time verifying identities or trying) and particular person identities weren’t uncovered as a result of aggregation and anonymization:
SafeGraph additionally has a Patterns dataset that exhibits how teams of individuals work together with a spot (absolutely aggregated and anonymized). SafeGraph has all the time dedicated to the best degree of privateness practices making certain particular person privateness is NEVER compromised. We use differential privateness to make sure anonymity.
However there’s been simply an absolute parade of high quality research exhibiting how “anonymization” is meaningless, and consumer identities may be teased out of such datasets with solely a modicum of extra information from different sources. That corporations simply hold pretending these research don’t exist is each absurd and insulting. SafeGraph additionally offered this information with no consumer identification verification.
Clearly, the hurt right here is that abortion (and serving to these in search of abortion) is criminalized in quite a few states, and this information turns into helpful for each legislation enforcement and politicians — but additionally doubtlessly violent authoritarians who really feel harassment efforts have been validated by an extraordinarily unpopular proper wing Supreme Court docket resolution.
This cycle we’re in, the place an organization will get caught being cavalier with consumer location information, then solely sheepishly backs away after a information outlet discovers the apply (whereas insisting they didn’t really do something incorrect), isn’t working. There’s fairly often no significant penalty, no third celebration affirmation that the corporate has modified something it claims to have modified, and no actual incentive for different actors to cease misbehaving, because the monetary price is minimal to nonexistent and the repute hit fleeting.
SafeGraph stopping this assortment and sale doesn’t cease the numerous different information brokers, adtech corporations, telecoms, app makers, and large tech giants which are additionally routinely cavalier with consumer location and different information — together with abortion clinic customer information (in reality it took Vice all of a day to search out one other dealer doing this identical factor). All of this has been greenlit by regulators and lawmakers soaked in marketing campaign contributions.
We’ve constructed an enormous interconnected ecosystem of rampant information over-collection and monetization with little to no significant oversight, whether or not we’re speaking about your broadband and wi-fi supplier, prayer and meditation apps, or interval monitoring apps. This information has already been abused by all kinds of cops, folks posing as cops, criminals, stalkers, and others. Believing it gained’t even be abused by a surging U.S. authoritarian proper is harmful wishful considering.