Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
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Thursday, May 26, 2011

How Cell Phones Give Researchers ‘God’s-Eye View Of Human Behavior’



Apple created a stir last month after researchers discovered the iPhone was storing years of data tracking a user’s location.

Apple says its latest software update allows people to opt out, but the FCC is moving forward with a public forum on the issue next month. What else might they learn about what cell phones can tell us?

In Belgium, cell phone records explained the country’s political divide: Belgians hold the world record for not being able to agree on a government, and cell phone records show it could be because people in the two camps don’t talk to each other.

Other research in the U.S. tracked tweets, showing that they can predict changes in the Dow Jones average with almost 90% accuracy.

We speak about what information can be gleaned from cell phone records with professor Alex Pentland of MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory and the MIT Media Lab, he says cell phones can give us a “God’s eye view of human behavior.”

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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