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Citizen is concerned with Blyncsy and Park City

Last year we wrote a couple of stories (here and here) about the county and city putting in Blyncsy cell phone monitors to track phones and help monitor traffic. Today a reader wrote in with the following:

The facts are that once information is available on anyone, law enforcement will want it, and it will be monetized by selling it to who ever will pay. Blyncsy is all about this with the PC deal. It’s wrong and it’s being misrepresented to the citizens of PC by the city and the company.


To be fair, the Park Rag has no knowledge that Blyncsy is selling information or helping law enforcement to track minorities or protesters (and we have no reason to believe they are). In fact, Blyncsy has a privacy policy that spells out that information is anonymous. The only problem with that, given the citizen’s concern, is that what Blyncsy may consider to be anonymous information may not really be anonymous to law enforcement.

Most technology like Blyncsy’s works based on what’s called a MAC address. The MAC address is a unique identifier in every phone (and other connected devices). Monitoring systems work by having antennas that “listen” for devices as they accompany you driving down the road. Your trusty Samsung Galaxy Note is shouting to the world, as you drive down Highway 224, hey I’m “01:23:45:67:89:ab.” These antennas record that information and then can tell the city and county 01:23:45:67:89:ab is heading towards the art festival. Combine that with data from everyone else and I suppose it could be powerful to transportation specialists as long as they are manning the command center at 3PM on a Saturday and have tools that are effective to impact traffic.

I continue to have doubts how effective these systems will really be. Do they distinguish between cars and buses? If not, the 87 people on the bus, with their phones, headed to PCMR, isn’t car traffic. How about bikers? My e-bike does 20 mph, is that filtered out? My car also has a mac address (as do most recent vehicles). So, how do they know its only one car headed into town and not two? What about my Apple watch that has a MAC address. And what about your Fitbit? How about multiple people in cars? Is that 4 people with 2 devices in one car or is it eight cars? The real kicker is the iPhone. You see, in some cases Apple doesn’t like others invading your privacy. So, they put in a feature called MAC address spoofing a couple of versions ago. This broadcasts out FAKE MAC addresses to confuse systems that try to monitor your MAC address (probably like Blyncsy). So, instead of one person heading from KJ to Deer Valley, you are now magically eight people because you are constantly changing your MAC address.

Maybe Blyncsy has it all figured out and there is no potential for privacy issues… I doubt it.

But I digress on the citizen’s original topic. If there were riots on Main Street, would the Park City Police Department try and use Blyncsy? They probably would. Then, if through some means they knew that Joe Smith, a person of interest, has a phone with the MAC address 04:23:53:65:qq would they try to get the Blyncsy data before an further anonymization took place to pinpoint Joe’s location? Probably. If not, would they demand Blyncsy’s algorithm for encoding the MAC address and then apply that algorithm to the MAC address (they know) and search for that in Blyncsy’s databases? Probably. Would they be successful? Probably. It’s done every day by hackers. That’s why you get messages saying that you need to change your Yahoo password, or your Dropbox password, your bank password, etc. It’s just not rocket science.

So, I guess at best I believe a system like Blyncsy is of very limited real value. Hopefully our government hasn’t paid them much. At worst, it has the potential to be an invasion of privacy.

Now, does Blyncsy sell the data? I would really hope not. If so, anyone involved in our city or county governments that allowed that to happen should be removed from their position. Even to use a system like this, the data had better be GOLD… But my guess is it’s more pyrite.

If you care about the topic, here is an article about some people in West Jordan fighting Blyncsy.




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