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How quaint is The Wire

Adam Oxford
Adam Oxford
2021-02-12

Remember back in the early 2000s when using cellphone mast data to track people was an exciting storyline in David Simon’s The Wire? You got the sense, even then, that technology was running faster than the showrunners could keep up (although apparently they were asked to remove some references to grabbers and the like). The New York Times has followed up its 2019 data scoop about cellphone surveillance with another leak about what mobile companies and law enforcement see, this time tracking individuals involved in the Capitol Hill mob as they moved around before after the pro-Trump riot. It’s terrifying, see it here.

In the hands of law enforcement, this data could be evidence. But at every other moment, the location data is reviewed by hedge funds, financial institutions and marketers, in an attempt to learn more about where we shop and how we live.

Adam Oxford
  • Adam Oxford is a freelance journalist, media consultant and civic tech enthusiast. He also works closely with startups developing solutions to access to justice problems.

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