NewsThe Privacy Arms Race

Hiding in plain sight

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Science  30 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6221, pp. 500
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6221.500

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Most people allow their smart phones to send their GPS locations to apps and websites like Yelp, AccuWeather, or Google Maps without a second thought. But these data might be shared with advertisers and other third parties that profile users' movement patterns, often without their knowledge. Computer scientists have developed clever countermeasures that let users extract information from such apps without revealing exactly where they are, camouflaging their whereabouts. For instance, a smart phone can send along a series of dummy locations along with the user's real coordinates and from the app's response use only the information the person needs.