For Sale: Your Daily Movements

Wireless companies are offering their customers' location data to companies that plan to use it for purposes ranging from city planning to market research.

What's the Latest Development?


A growing number of wireless companies are looking to make money off the massive amounts of information it has about its customers' daily traffic patterns, and new companies are springing up to pay for that data. For example, Atlanta-based AirSage is working with major carriers to collect cellular tower data in real time that can be used to help transportation and traffic planners, among others. One of their customers, Streetlight Data, combines that data with GPS information to identify those who pass by a particular retail area as part of a daily commute, as opposed to those who are just visiting from further away. Streetlight founder Laura Schewel says that her company could help improve city planning in the future by bringing businesses physically closer to potential customers.

What's the Big Idea?

Until recently, information collected about individuals' daily movements was only accessible by the wireless carriers themselves. Now that they're making that data available for purchase, it can be used in a wide variety of applications. Notably, both the carriers and the data-seeking companies are careful about protecting the privacy of millions of mobile phone users: "[T]hey wrestle with the challenge of conveying what 'anonymous' and 'aggregated' data means to people who are increasingly aware that they are carrying around a tracker in their pocket."

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Read it at MIT Technology Review

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

This is the best (and simplest) world map of religions

Both panoramic and detailed, this infographic manages to show both the size and distribution of world religions.

(c) CLO / Carrie Osgood
Strange Maps
  • At a glance, this map shows both the size and distribution of world religions.
  • See how religions mix at both national and regional level.
  • There's one country in the Americas without a Christian majority – which?
Keep reading Show less

Apparently even NASA is wrong about which planet is closest to Earth

Three scientists publish a paper proving that Mercury, not Venus, is the closest planet to Earth.

Strange Maps
  • Earth is the third planet from the Sun, so our closest neighbor must be planet two or four, right?
  • Wrong! Neither Venus nor Mars is the right answer.
  • Three scientists ran the numbers. In this YouTube video, one of them explains why our nearest neighbor is... Mercury!
Keep reading Show less

Remembering when bankers tried to overthrow FDR and install a fascist dictator

When FDR took office, the U.S. was in the grips of the Great Depression. People had grown desperate, and FDR's election seemed disastrous. Some wealthy bankers believed that it was time to take the country by force.

Image source: Topical Press Agency / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Though we know today that his policies eventually ended the Great Depression, FDR's election was seen as disastrous by some.
  • A group of wealthy bankers decided to take things into their own hands; they plotted a coup against FDR, hoping to install a fascist dictator in its stead.
  • Ultimately, the coup was brought to light by General Smedley Butler and squashed before it could get off the ground.
Keep reading Show less