You may not know that hedge funds, in both the United Kingdom and in the United States, buy and sell a variety of information from data brokers: mobile app purchases, credit card purchases, posts at social networking sites, and lots more. You can bet that a lot of that mobile information includes geo-location data. The problem: consumers' privacy isn't protected consistently.
The industry claims the information sold is anonymous (e.g., doesn't identify specific persons), but researchers have it easy to de-anonymize the information. The Financial Times reported:
"The “alternative data” industry, which sells information such as app downloads and credit card purchases to investment groups, is failing to adequately erase personal details before sharing the material... big data is seen as an increasingly attractive source of information for asset managers seeking a vital investment edge, with data providers selling everything from social media chatter and emailed receipts to federal lobbying data and even satellite images from space..."
One part of the privacy problem:
“The vendors claim to strip out all the personal information, but we occasionally find phone numbers, zip codes and so on,” said Matthew Granade, chief market intelligence officer at Steven Cohen’s Point72. “It’s a big enough deal that we have a couple of full-time tech people wash the data ourselves.” The head of another major hedge fund said that even when personal information had been scrubbed from a data set, it was far too easy to restore..."
A second part of the privacy problem:
“... there is no overarching US privacy law to protect consumers, with standards set individually by different states, industries and even companies, according to Albert Gidari, director of privacy at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society..."
The third part of the privacy problem: consumers are too willing to trade personal information for convenience.