But since the Trump administration announced it wants Americans’ cell phone data, too, Reston, Virginia-based data company X-Mode has stepped forward to show just how that data could be used.
CEO Josh Anton was featured on CNN last weekend as he explained X-Mode’s recent partnership with data viz company Tectonix GEO, focusing on a highly visible case that involves tracking the location data from people who visited a beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Among the visitors were spring breakers who made national headlines a few weeks ago when they ignored warnings to practice social distancing.
The results of the cell phone tracking data was posted on a map on twitter which showed where people traveled after they visited the beach, spreading across the country to major cities like New York and Chicago — possibly bringing the coronavirus along with them.
Want to see the true potential impact of ignoring social distancing? Through a partnership with @xmodesocial, we analyzed secondary locations of anonymized mobile devices that were active at a single Ft. Lauderdale beach during spring break. This is where they went across the US: pic.twitter.com/3A3ePn9Vin
— Tectonix (@TectonixGEO) March 25, 2020
X-Mode CMO Jake Ellenburg told Technical.ly in February that the company provides location tracking services to makers of weather, transit and other apps that have use for location services. According to Ellenburg (and Anton, in the CNN interview), the data X-Mode collects is anonymized, meaning it does not match individuals to the devices it tracks. The company did not provide the name of the apps its technology is embedded in.
“We wanted to showcase the impact of what happens when you don’t exercise social distancing and essentially how small our community is,” Anton told CNN.