The National Security Agency’s collection of data regarding telephone conversations is a far greater threat to privacy than many of us believe. A lawsuit filed by a German politician proves just how much you can learn about a person’s life by monitoring and tracking their phone usage.
Malte Spitz, a member of Germany’s Green Party, sued his cellphone company, T-Mobile, in 2010 in an attempt to determine how much the carrier knew about him. Malte won the suit and received a CD that showed how easy it is to track a person via their phone.
35,890 Records About His Movement
When he won his lawsuit, Spitz received a CD containing 35,830 records, each documenting his movements. Spitz learned that T-Mobile could pinpoint exactly where he was at a given time. By combining GPS with the data, Spitz could track his own movements around Germany.
T-Mobile knew exactly how many telephone calls Spitz received in a day, how many calls he made, how many Twitter messages he sent out, and how many he received. By examining the data, T-Mobile could figure out that Spitz was attending a political demonstration on Sept. 5, 2009. Spitz shared the data with the German magazine ZEIT, which had an easy time creating a simple interative graphic that tracked Spitz’s movements based on the metadata. The graphic, of which you can see a still of below, highlights what the NSA and mobile phone companies can find out about you from phone records alone (click here for the interactive version):
Those with access to such data could determine what church you go to, what people you visit, and where you shop. It could be used to make criminal cases or to orchestrate surveillance of a person.