Chicago will begin monitoring cellphone signals to track where people are walking

Chicago already has a wide-reaching video surveillance network, and this summer, it’s going to begin keeping track of much more using automated sensors. Through a program called Array of Things,…


They say the nodes will anonymise the data, but it is hard to believe this will not be used for law enforcement. Having a party? The DUI task force will maybe camped out down the street before it ends.

Imagine the big data implications:Trulia downgrades your home’s market value because more prepaid cell phones are appearing in your neighborhood, or the phones seen tend to use instagram more than facebook. Car insurance rates could be set by your tendency to visit crowded or younger demographic neighborhoods.


I’m no conspiracy theorist, and there could be some really useful applications, but this needs to be done carefully, and with technical oversight. 


The fact that they monitor all three protocols (cellular, wifi and bluetooth) is potentially powerful. But be careful how much credence you give the data collected. The fact that the devices can all be configured differently, can lead to wild variations in the data set.