location, location, location

The title refers to a saying in the real estate business – that location is the most important factor in a home. Turns out it is important for social media (think ads) so devices and systems tend to collect that data. Most of the major social media platforms scrub the raw geolocation data before posting/storing. Turns out that Parler didn’t (bad coding? – they also had almost no security for the data APIs). One thing that is clear about the internet, if you have a site, someone out there is trying to hack it. The motives behind hacking are myriad and deserve a separate discussion.

So bad security (analog and digital) + raw video data with geolocations + high profile public event (Capitol riot) = exposure of all that information via hack (about 80 terabytes worth). Gizmodo details some analysis of the data, showing how some Parler users penetrated the Capitol. The GPS data isn’t perfectly precise – phone GPS has about 10m resolution so there is some ambiguity but easy to get the idea of what happened.

Given the crippling of Parler by the major tech players (Google and Apple removed the app from their online stores, Amazon shut down their serving capabilities) there was a rush to try and get this data. One repercussion from all of this is that the users will likely migrate to less obvious (and likely more secure) platforms which may make monitoring more difficult.

Another topic for a future discussion – facial recognition software played a big part in identifying and arresting participants in the riot. It will be interesting to see if the conversation around these technologies change in light of this use case. Interesting times…

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