There is a whole industry that specializes in revealing the identity of anonymous users.
Tech companies have repeatedly reassured the public that the trackers used to track smartphone users through apps are anonymous, without directly identifying the person using the mobile device. But they don’t mention that there is an entire industry that specializes in revealing the identity of anonymous users.
According to Motherboard, companies in the industry associate mobile advertising IDs (MAIDs) collected by apps with a user’s full name, physical address, and other personally identifiable information. MAID is a unique identifier that the phone’s operating system assigns to an individual user’s device. For Apple, this is IDFA, and for Google, it is AAID or Android Advertising ID. Apps often get the user’s MAID and share it with third parties.
The deanonymization industry uses a variety of terms to describe its product, including “identity resolution” and “identity diagram”. For example, technology company FullContact, which has 223 billion US user information and profile information for more than 275 million US adults, provides such services.
“Our personal identification card provides both personal and professional information about a person, as well as online and offline identifiers. MAIDs were created for the marketing and advertising community and are tied to a separate mobile device, which allows them to accurately identify specific people, ”says FullContact marketing materials.
FullContact has not responded to Motherboard as to whether MAIDs and identifying information are collected with user consent, and what safeguards FullContact uses to prevent abuse of its ability to expose people.
BIGDBM, also a human identification service provider, says it has one of the largest repositories of current MAIDS data related to personally identifiable information in the United States. BIGDBM’s MAIDS are reported to be able to identify the full name, physical address and phone numbers, email addresses and IP addresses of users.
The existence of companies that explicitly associate MAID with personal information could cause problems under US privacy laws, experts said.
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