Meanwhile, academics at Northeastern studied travel data for some 100,000 European cell phone users, gnawing their way through more than 16 million call dates, times, and positions. Their conclusion?
Taken together, people's movements appeared to follow a mathematical pattern. The scientists said that, with enough information about past movements, they could forecast someone's future whereabouts with 93.6 percent accuracy.
Let that last one sink in for a minute. They aren't saying they know where you've been; they're saying they can guess with impressive certainty where you're going next.
Lest you think this is just an academic exercise, this kind of data analysis is being used by wireless carriers to predict who's more likely to jump carriers, and may soon influence how drugs are marketed or political campaigns are conducted. This data can also be used in more positive ways -- to prevent the outbreak of disease, reroute traffic, and figure out better ways to design cities and save energy, for example.
What data is being collected from your smartphone, how is it being used, and what can we do about it? All good questions. Let me know if you have any answers.
Writing for the New York Times, University of Chicago economics prof Alan Thaler serves up a perfectly reasonable suggestion about what to do with all this data: Show it to us, too. That way we can use the data to make smarter decisions about how to, say, choose the right smartphone or insurance plan or improve our diets.
Before you say that's impossible, Thaler points out he has been consulting with the British government on a project called Mydata that aims to do precisely that. He writes:
The ability of businesses to monitor our behavior is already a fact of life, and it isn't going away. Of course we must protect our privacy rights. But if we're smart, we'll also use the data that is being collected to improve our own lives.
If we have to live with Big Brother, we could at least share in some brotherly love. I'm sure Socrates would agree.
What data do you wish your smartphone would share? Post your thoughts below or email me: email@example.com.
This article, "Your smartphone knows you better than you do," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Track the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.