In case you thought you may protest with a mask...


think again.

In case you thought you may protest with a mask... /img/tracking-protestors.jpg
Look at all those people: all masked, all in the darkness, all perfectly recognizable.

Had you already realized that, in several places across the world, not only every protester who brings a phone to a public demonstration is ALREADY tracked, but that, in some cases, person’s presence at the event is recorded in datasets available for sale?

A trove of location data with more than 50 billion location pings from the phones of more than 12 million Americans obtained by Times Opinion helps to illustrate the risks that such comprehensive monitoring poses to the right of Americans to assemble and participate in a healthy democracy.

Within minutes, with no special training and a little bit of Google searching, Times Opinion was able to single out and identify individuals at public demonstrations large and small from coast to coast. In some instances… it took little effort to identify the homes of protesters and then their family members.

Permanent tracking, and even more inequality

[In the future] Public dissent could quickly become too risky a proposition, given that the record of one’s attendance at a rally could be held against them at a later date.

Right now, “professional protesters” already leave cellphones at home, toggle them to airplane mode or simply power them off. Of course, the price is that “The more secure you are the less able you are to organize”. Over time, protest could become the exclusive right of those with the means to safeguard themselves technologically, including having a second, “burner” phone.

The obvious, depressingly unsurprising conclusion…

is that “In the smartphone era - masked or not - no one can get lost in a sea of faces anymore.”

You should already be aware of this. But even in that case, do read the full story. You never know when you may need what you learn.

(This post was drafted in April 2020, but only put online in August, because… my coronavirus reports, of course

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