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Location Intelligence

May 6, 2013

Location Intelligence is a relatively new method of analyzing aggregate data using software based on geographic conditions. This serves a number of efficiency related purposes: Anything from increasing revenue by predicting the best location for a store to be built to predicting the most likely areas wreckage from a crash will be found. Perhaps most importantly, it can be used to track you. People create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day—and a huge portion of that data comes from social media sources like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Have you ever seen a location services option on your phone? If you own anything from Apple you can expect to find this option in your settings. Unless you’ve turned this “service” off, the majority of what you post to these social media sites is being publicly tagged with a location and a time. Location intelligence tools turn this abandoned or thoughtlessly published data into a gold mine, by making a business out of tracking you. Of course you’re giving this information freely, and data storage is incredibly cheap, so businesses can effectively harvest and process this aggregate data freely. Furthermore by tracking and predicting your movements they can reduce their costs: Do you like to buy ice cream? Do you only stop for ice cream on the way to work? Does everyone else do the same thing? Probably not, but with this aggregate data location intelligence can provide the most effective location for your shop.

There are two ways to view this, and an invasion of privacy is not one of them—you chose not to disable your location services. This can be viewed as either exploitation or service, much like targeted advertisements. The placement of this new shop based on your aggregate data is exploiting you, by tempting your weak mind into buying delicious treats that you otherwise could have avoided; or you are being better served what you want, leading to your own benefits along with the business. Location intelligence is the way of the future, but who is it really serving?

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