Contrasting social and non-social sources of predictability in human mobility


Social structures influence human behavior, including their movement patterns. Indeed, latent information about an individual’s movement can be present in the mobility patterns of both acquaintances and strangers. We develop a “colocation” network to distinguish the mobility patterns of an ego’s social ties from those not socially connected to the ego but who arrive at a location at a similar time as the ego. Using entropic measures, we analyze and bound the predictive information of an individual’s mobility pattern and its flow to both types of ties. While the former generically provide more information, replacing up to 94% of an ego’s predictability, significant information is also present in the aggregation of unknown colocators, that contain up to 85% of an ego’s predictive information. Such information flow raises privacy concerns: individuals sharing data via mobile applications may be providing actionable information on themselves as well as others whose data are absent.

In Nature Communications
comments powered by Disqus