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If you’ve been out protesting over Black Lives Matter, it’s likely police and spook agencies – and others – have got your number. So beware!

For years, police and spook agencies have used mobile phone location data to target people – but now political activists are in the same game, particularly in the USA in the lead-up to the 2020 election.

The mass protests nationwide, there and in Australia, over Black Lives Matter and against police-investigating-police, is a rich new data trove, according to Ars Technica.

In the USA, political advocacy and voter-registration groups are reaping the bounty. They are using geofencing to contact people who attended protests, reaching out to every device that was in a certain area at a certain time, without specifically identifying the individual.

A geofence is a virtual perimeter for a real-world geographic area. It can be applied to data collection by GPS data.

In this case, activists reach out with political messages. Jason Berlin, founder of a voter-registration group called Field Team 6, told the Wall Street Journal that such location-based tactics are “deeply spooky yet extremely helpful.” He uses Facebook to deliver targeted advertising to users whose devices were near recent protests in Detroit, Houston, Raleigh, and Tallahassee. “We’re actively looking at where the protests are popping up and then readjusting our targets,” Berlin explained.

Police usually need a warrant to track a specific individual’s mobile phone. But the other way around –picking a location, and then looking at who was there – is not so restricted.

Recently, Florida police mistakenly identified a man riding his bike near the scene of a burglary as the top suspect. The private sector also uses geofencing tools to target individuals. Ambulance-chaser law firms, for example, can advertised to people who have visited hospital emergency rooms.
PS: One of the ’newest’ techniques being used to try to secure voter registration in the USA is “hand-written” letters to named householders delivered in person to letter boxes. Young political activists say the technique produces better results than Facebook or similar ‘advertising/marketing’…because people rarely receive personally addressed mail nowadays.

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