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SOCNET  June 2008

SOCNET June 2008

Subject:

Re: 'Network' research in the news for potential ethics violations

From:

david lazer <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

david lazer <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 4 Jun 2008 18:08:05 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (264 lines)

***** To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org *****

*Here is the abstract for the paper: (
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7196/abs/nature06958.html)*

*
*

*Nature* *453*, 779-782 (5 June 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature06958; Received 19
December 2007; Accepted 27 March 2008
Understanding individual human mobility patterns

Marta C. González1<http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7196/abs/nature06958.html#a1>,
César A. Hidalgo1<http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7196/abs/nature06958.html#a1>
,2 <http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7196/abs/nature06958.html#a2>&
Albert-László Barabási
1 <http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7196/abs/nature06958.html#a1>,
2 <http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7196/abs/nature06958.html#a2>,
3 <http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7196/abs/nature06958.html#a3>

   1. Center for Complex Network Research and Department of Physics, Biology
   and Computer Science, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts 02115,
   USA
   2. Center for Complex Network Research and Department of Physics and
   Computer Science, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556, USA
   3. Center for Cancer Systems Biology, Dana Farber Cancer Institute,
   Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA

Correspondence to: Albert-László
Barabási1<http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7196/abs/nature06958.html#a1>
,2 <http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7196/abs/nature06958.html#a2>
,3 <http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7196/abs/nature06958.html#a3>Correspondence
and requests for materials should be addressed to A.-L.B.
(Email: [log in to unmask]).
Top of page<http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7196/abs/nature06958.html#top>

Despite their importance for urban
planning1<http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7196/full/nature06958.html#B1>,
traffic forecasting2<http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7196/full/nature06958.html#B2>and
the spread of biological3,
<http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7196/full/nature06958.html#B3>4,
<http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7196/full/nature06958.html#B4>5<http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7196/full/nature06958.html#B5>and
mobile viruses
6 <http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7196/full/nature06958.html#B6>,
our understanding of the basic laws governing human motion remains limited
owing to the lack of tools to monitor the time-resolved location of
individuals. Here we study the trajectory of 100,000 anonymized mobile phone
users whose position is tracked for a six-month period. We find that, in
contrast with the random trajectories predicted by the prevailing Lévy
flight and random walk
models7<http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7196/full/nature06958.html#B7>,
human trajectories show a high degree of temporal and spatial regularity,
each individual being characterized by a time-independent characteristic
travel distance and a significant probability to return to a few highly
frequented locations. After correcting for differences in travel distances
and the inherent anisotropy of each trajectory, the individual travel
patterns collapse into a single spatial probability distribution, indicating
that, despite the diversity of their travel history, humans follow simple
reproducible patterns. This inherent similarity in travel patterns could
impact all phenomena driven by human mobility, from epidemic prevention to
emergency response, urban planning and agent-based modelling.


On Wed, Jun 4, 2008 at 5:23 PM, <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> ***** To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org *****
>
> From http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/06/04/cell.tracking.ap/index.html
>
>
>
> Cell phone users secretly tracked in study
>
>
>
>
>
> WASHINGTON (AP) -- Researchers secretly tracked the locations of 100,000
> people outside the United States through their cell phone use and concluded
> that most people rarely stray more than a few miles from home.
>
>
>
> The study found that nearly half of the people tracked kept to a circle
> little more than six miles wide.
>
>
>
> The first-of-its-kind study by Northeastern University raises privacy and
> ethical questions for its monitoring methods, which would be illegal in the
> United States.
>
>
>
> It also yielded somewhat surprising results that reveal how little people
> move around in their daily lives. Nearly three-quarters of those studied
> mainly stayed within a 20-mile-wide circle for half a year.
>
>
>
> The scientists would not disclose where the study was done, only describing
> the location as an industrialized nation.
>
>
>
> Researchers used cell phone towers to track individuals' locations whenever
> they made or received phone calls and text messages over six months.
>
>
>
> In a second set of records, researchers took another 206 cell phones that
> had tracking devices in them and got records for their locations every two
> hours over a week's time period.
>
>
>
> The study was based on cell phone records from a private company, whose
> name
> also was not disclosed.
>
>
>
> Study co-author Cesar Hidalgo, a physics researcher at Northeastern, said
> he
> and his colleagues didn't know the individual phone numbers because they
> were disguised into "ugly" 26-digit-and-letter codes.
>
>
>
> That type of nonconsensual tracking would be illegal in the United States,
> according to Rob Kenny, a spokesman for the Federal Communications
> Commission. Consensual tracking, however, is legal and even marketed as a
> special feature by some U.S. cell phone providers.
>
>
>
> The study, published Thursday in the journal Nature, opens up the field of
> human-tracking for science and calls attention to what experts said is an
> emerging issue of locational privacy.
>
>
>
> "This is a new step for science," said study co-author Albert-Lazlo
> Barabasi, director of Northeastern's Center for Complex Network Research.
> "For the first time we have a chance to really objectively follow certain
> aspects of human behavior."
>
>
>
> Barabasi said he spent nearly half his time on the study worrying about
> privacy issues. Researchers didn't know which phone numbers were involved.
> They were not able to say precisely where people were, just which nearby
> cell phone tower was relaying the calls, which could be a matter of blocks
> or miles.
>
>
>
> They started with 6 million phone numbers and chose the 100,000 at random
> to
> provide "an extra layer" of anonymity for the research subjects, he said.
>
>
>
> Barabasi said he did not check with any ethics panel. [?!] Had he done so,
> he might have gotten an earful, suggested bioethicist Arthur Caplan at the
> University of Pennsylvania.
>
>
>
> "There is plenty going on here that sets off ethical alarm bells about
> privacy and trustworthiness," Caplan said.
>
>
>
> Studies done on normal behavior at public places is "fair game for
> researchers" as long as no one can figure out identities, Caplan said in an
> e-mail.
>
>
>
> "So if I fight at a soccer match or walk through 30th Street train station
> in Philly, I can be studied," Caplan wrote. "But my cell phone is not
> public. My cell phone is personal. Tracking it and thus its owner is an
> active intrusion into personal privacy."
>
>
>
> Paul Stephens, policy director at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San
> Diego, said the nonconsensual part of the study raises the Big Brother
> issue.
>
>
>
> "It certainly is a major concern for people who basically don't like to be
> tracked and shouldn't be tracked without their knowledge," Stephens said.
>
>
>
> Study co-author Hidalgo said there is a difference between being a
> statistic
> -- such as how many people buy a certain brand of computer -- and a
> specific
> example. The people tracked in the study are more statistics than examples.
>
>
>
> "In the wrong hands the data could be misused," Hidalgo said. "But in
> scientists' hands you're trying to look at broad patterns.... We're not
> trying to do evil things. We're trying to make the world a little better."
>
>
>
> Knowing people's travel patterns can help design better transportation
> systems and give doctors guidance in fighting the spread of contagious
> diseases, he said.
>
>
>
> The results also tell us something new about ourselves, including that we
> tend to go to the same places repeatedly, he said.
>
>
>
> "Despite the fact that we think of ourselves as spontaneous and
> unpredictable ... we do have our patterns we move along and for the vast
> majority of people it's a short distance," Barabasi said.
>
>
>
> The study found that nearly half of the people in the study pretty much
> keep
> to a circle little more than six miles wide and that 83 percent of the
> people tracked mostly stay within a 37-mile wide circle.
>
>
>
> But then there are the people who are the travel equivalent of the
> super-rich, said Hidalgo, who travels more than 150 miles every weekend to
> visit his girlfriend. Nearly 3 percent of the population regularly go
> beyond
> a 200-mile wide circle. Less than 1 percent of people travel often out of a
> 621-mile circle.
>
>
> _____________________________________________________________________
> SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social
> network researchers (http://www.insna.org). To unsubscribe, send
> an email message to [log in to unmask] containing the line
> UNSUBSCRIBE SOCNET in the body of the message.
>



--
David Lazer
Associate Professor of Public Policy
Kennedy School of Government
Harvard University

_____________________________________________________________________
SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social
network researchers (http://www.insna.org). To unsubscribe, send
an email message to [log in to unmask] containing the line
UNSUBSCRIBE SOCNET in the body of the message.

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