In many of our pockets rests a powerful computing device, aiding our daily lives: a smartphone. What many don’t realize is that in addition to providing us with massive amounts of data, our phones are also mechanisms to collect data. In order to send us calls or texts, the telephone company needs to know which cell towers we’re closest to, tracking our movements through the city. When we check-in on Swarm or share geo-tagged photos on Instagram, we’re telling tech companies where we’ve traveled.
This constant collection of data provides many new benefits. It is cheaper and easier than ever to discover what places we’ll like before we arrive, which places are friends have visited, or how commuters travel. At the same time, location data contains more than just places we enjoy-- frequently visited locations can reveal information about our income, race, habits, or relationships.
We’re interested in finding a balance between the great opportunities and concerns the ubiquity of location tracking has brought about.
We’ve created a website where users can link some common location-tracking applications (Instagram, Foursquare) to view information about the places they’ve visited. Users can also manually click out locations important to them. Users will then be able to learn interesting facts about where they’ve been -- for instance, what is the racial composition of the places they’ve been? Are they spending their time in high-income or low-income locations? Can we accurately guess things about users based on only where they’ve been?
Information from external applications is temporarily stored on our servers in order to process it and display predictions to the user. This data is deleted after two weeks.