Computer science researchers at Columbia University and Google have identified new privacy concerns by demonstrating that geotagged posts on just two social media apps are enough to link accounts held by the same person.
Our real world movements are so distinctive that most people can be identified from a few data points within a single data set. With as little as four credit card purchases, individual shoppers can be picked out from among millions of other credit card users.
The new study, presented last week at the World Wide Web conference in Montreal, took those previous findings a step further by showing that individuals can be identified with a high degree of confidence by matching their movements across two data sets.
The researchers developed an algorithm that compares geotagged posts on Twitter with posts on Instagram and Foursquare to link accounts held by the same person. It works by calculating the probability that one person posting at a given time and place could also be posting in a second app, at another time and place. The Columbia team found that the algorithm can also identify shoppers by matching anonymous credit card purchases against logs of mobile phones pinging the nearest cell tower.
N.C. Science Festival: Upcoming highlights
The statewide celebration continues through April 24. For a full calendar of events, go to www.ncsciencefestival.org.
Among the events in our area: the UNC Charlotte Science and Technology Expo. More than 100 activities for science-curious people of all ages will be featured noon-4 p.m April 24 in and near the student union, from displays to hands-on presentations (including robots in action). Admission: free. Details: www.ncsciencefestival.uncc.edu.
His research published prior to grad school
When Charlotte native Elliott Wyatt graduated from N.C. State in 2013 with a bachelor’s in biochemistry, he decided to field-test that kind of career before heading to grad school. Wyatt spent two years working at the federal National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Mont., studying how a particular bacterium reprograms human cells to actively suppress the human immune system. He is the lead author of an article based on his work, “Metabolic Reprogramming of Host Cells by Virulent Francisella tularensis for Optimal Replication and Modulation of Inflammation,” published in March in the Journal of Immunology. In August, Wyatt begins graduate studies at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Electronics embroidered into clothing
Electronics researchers at Ohio State University working to develop wearable electronics are now able to embroider circuits into fabric with 0.1 mm precision – a size where electronic components such as sensors and computer memory devices can be integrated into clothing.
It is a step toward the design of functional textiles – clothes that gather, store, or transmit digital information. The technology could lead to shirts that act as antennas for a smartphone or tablet, workout clothes that monitor fitness level, sports equipment that monitors athletes’ performance or a bandage that tells your doctor how well the tissue beneath it is healing.
The research is published in the journal IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters.