As many as 17,000 people attending protests across the country following the death of George Floyd had no idea that they were being traced by a Singaporean tech company.
A recent report from BuzzFeed News titled “Almost 17,000 Protesters Had No Idea A Tech Company Was Tracing Their Location,” outlines how thousands of people attending protests across the United States following the death of George Floyd had no idea that they were being tracked by a tech firm harvesting the location data from their cellphones in order to predict their age, race, gender and where they lived.
The company in question, Mobilewalla, released a report two weeks after the protest titled “George Floyd Protester Demographics: Insights Across 4 Major US Cities.” The document details what percentage of posters the company believes were male or female, young adults aged between 18 and 34, middle-aged between 35 and 54, or older than 55. The report also broke protesters into racial groups such as “African-American,” “Caucasian/Others,” “Hispanic,” or “Asian-American.”
Mobilewalla claimed in its report: “African American males made up the majority of protesters in the four observed cities vs. females. Men vs. women in Atlanta (61% vs. 39%), in Los Angeles (65% vs. 35%), in Minneapolis (54% vs. 46%) and in New York (59% vs. 41%).”
Senator Elizabeth Warren, a failed Democratic presidential hopeful, commented on the report stating:
This report shows that an enormous number of Americans – probably without even knowing it – are handing over their full location history to shady location data brokers with zero restrictions on what companies can do with it. In an end-run around the Constitution’s limits on government surveillance, these companies can even sell this data to the government, which can use it for law and immigration enforcement. That’s why I’ve opened an investigation into the government contracts held by location data brokers, and I’ll keep pushing for answers.
Mobilewalla CEO Anindya Datta told BuzzFeed News that the data analysis wasn’t a new project: “The underlying data, the underlying observations that came into the report, is something that we collect and produce on a regular basis,” he said. According to Datta, the company didn’t prepare the report for law enforcement or a public agency but simply to satisfy its own employees’ curiosity about the sheer amount of unregulated data it could reveal about demonstrators.
“It’s hard to tell you a specific reason as to why we did this,” Datta said. “But over time, a bunch of us in the company were watching with curiosity and some degree of alarm as to what’s going on.”
Read more at BuzzFeed News here.
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address firstname.lastname@example.org