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Big Brother is my co-pilot

By   /   June 13, 2012  /   No Comments

Big Data vs little you. spoiler alert: you are not going to make it.
We take a look at Inrix the main player in traffic analysis based on GPS tracking information, and analyze what it means for your privacy or lack thereof.

Big Data is the new big buzz word out there. Big data is really about analyzing huge amount of data and turning it in something useful. People love the useful part. They rarely care about the “huge amount of data” part, but they should as it really means trading one’s privacy.

There is a nice WSJ article and blog post today about a Big Data company called Inrix. They provide traffic information to google maps, Mapquest, Ford, BMW and many other vehicle manufacturers and GPS providers. They also provide traffic information and analysis to state transportation agencies that help improve congestion, plan road expansions, or alert them of accidents. According to the Inrix website they analyze GPS data from more than 100 million cars, GPS devices and cell phone Apps.

You may not know of Inrix, but they know about you. A check to their privacy statement reveals that they collect a ton of personal identifiable information about you. They also make that information available to partners and authorities.

Here is the excerpt from their privacy policy:

 We collect:

  • All information you submit through forms in our app e.g. your email address, destinations, and your favorite contacts for arrival time notifications
  • All traffic incident reports you submit to our user community, the time and date of your report, and the geographic location from which you submitted that report
  • The real-time geographic location, time, speed and heading of your device. We collect this information while you have our app open as an ingredient to our overall traffic data that    benefits our entire user community.  In doing so we also collect your device’s unique identity and security numbers but to help safeguard your privacy, we automatically replace the identity number we hold every 60 minutes and the security number every 24 hours.
  • any other information your app store provider lawfully shares with us

(…)

We also may share the information we collect:

 

where we are legally obliged to do so (e.g. to comply with a lawful government request)

(…)

How long do we keep it for?

 

We may retain information for historic research and statistical purposes for as long as we choose (which could be indefinitely).

 

If you think that it is not that bad because they delete Phone IDs every 24hours, keep in mind that they have your email address, and it is associated with your location data permanently. Also understand that your email address is public data. Authorities do not need a warrant to get it. With your email address they could access all your movements as Inrix keeps that information “for as long as [they] choose (which could be indefinitely).” Indefinitely is a long time.

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