Researchers covertly tracked 100 thousand people

Here’s a disturbing story:

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 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 say where the study was done, only describing the location as an industrialized nation.

Ethical questions?  I’d say so.  Set aside the likely illegality of the study, the privacy issues, and the issues of human subject research.  By refusing to reveal where the study was done, they make it impossible to reproduce their results, thereby making the study useless.  (Of course, it would probably be hard to reproduce it anyway, due to the other ethical problems.)  I imagine that they’re holding that information back because of concern for legal consequences.

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