Researchers at University College London in the U.K. have found that four geotagged posts are sufficient to identify an anonymous account from a telephone company's database of 10 million customers.
In order to effectively route calls to a cellphone, telecommunications companies must know which cell towers are nearby, and this process creates a crude map of each customer's movements.
The researchers examined these "fingerprints" to determine if there was a risk users could be identified from their movements. They found that a single geolocated post from an anonymous account was enough to exclude 99.999% of the database, leaving about 100 possible users out of about 10 million records.
"Four location leaks are sufficient to uniquely identify 95% of the users in our dataset," says Nicolas Kourtellis at Telefonica Research in Spain, who worked on the project.
From New Scientist
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