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Got privacy? If you use Twitter or a smartphone, maybe not so much

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Julian Dunkelberger
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The location stamps on just a handful of Twitter posts can help even low-tech stalkers find you, researchers found.

The notion of online privacy has been greatly diminished in recent years, and just this week two new studies confirm what to many minds is already a dismal picture.

First, a study reported on Monday by Stanford University found that smartphone metadata—information about calls and text messages, such as time and length—can reveal a surprising amount of personal detail.

Based on frequent calls to a local firearms dealer that prominently advertises AR semiautomatic rifles and to the customer support hotline of a major manufacturer that produces them, it s logical to conclude that another likely owns such a weapon.

Currently, U.S. law gives more privacy protections to call content and makes it easier for government agencies to obtain metadata, in part because policymakers assume that it shouldn t be possible to infer specific sensitive details about people based on metadata alone.

Many people have this idea that only machine-learning techniques can discover interesting patterns in location data, and they feel secure that not everyone has the technical knowledge to do that, said Ilaria Liccardi, a research scientist at MIT s Internet Policy Research Initiative and first author on the paper.

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Julian Dunkelberger
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