Yesterday, a new Catholic site called The Pillar published a story that resulted in the resignation of Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, the Secretary General of the United States Conference of Bishops. This is what the Pillar reported:
A priest of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, he began serving in the bishops’ conference as deputy general secretary in February 2016. In that capacity, the priest was tasked with helping coordinate the response of the U.S. bishops. the Church’s sex gathering in 2018. abuse and coercion scandals.
But an analysis of the app’s data signals correlated to Burrill’s mobile device shows that the priest also visited gay bars and private residences while using a location-based connection app in numerous cities from 2018 to 2020, even while traveling. by assignment for the US bishops conference.
Based on commercially available records of application signal data obtained by The pillar, a Burrill-mapped mobile device broadcast app data signals from the Grindr location-based connection app almost daily during parts of 2018, 2019, and 2020, both at its USCCB office and at its USCCB-owned residence , as well as during USCCB meetings and events in other cities.
There has been quite a strong reaction to this in various media outlets and it may not be what you would expect. An opinion piece published by the National Catholic Reporter tagged the report “Unethical” and “homophobic”.
I am a sinner. You too. So is Bishop Jeffrey Burrill. None of us have a personal life that can withstand the kind of scrutiny The Pillar has applied to Burrill. Each and every one of us has had an embarrassing moment that we regret, and I suspect that most of us must be caught in cycles of sinfulness that we repeat less because we want to than because we are sinners and cannot help but be sinners.
Like anyone else, Burrill’s sins are between him and God. Like any other priest, we can say that his bishop also belongs to that conversation. But unless there is some reason to think that he has hurt someone else, I am sure his sins are not my concern, as much as my sins are not yours. As a Catholic, I am obliged to believe all of that.
But non-Catholic news sites have primarily expressed concern about how El Pilar did what he did. If you can use the cell data to expel and expel a priest, you can probably do it with almost anyone. That is something that seems to concern a Grindr spokesperson:
“The alleged activities listed in that unattributed blog post are technically unfeasible and incredibly unlikely to occur,” he said Tuesday night in a statement. “There is absolutely no evidence to support allegations of data collection or misuse related to the Grindr app as intended.”
Privacy experts have long raised concerns about “anonymized” data collected by apps and sold or shared with aggregators and marketing companies. While information is typically stripped of obvious identifying fields, such as a user’s name or phone number, it can contain everything from age and gender to device identification. Experts may anonymize some of this data and connect it to real people.
In fact, as Vice pointed out in a story published last week, there is an entire industry dedicated to de-anonymizing data. collected on cell phones.
Tech companies have repeatedly assured the public that the trackers that used to follow smartphone users through apps are anonymous or at least pseudonymous, and do not directly identify the person using the phone. But what they don’t mention is that there is an entire industry that is being overlooked to explicitly and deliberately break that anonymity.
They do this by linking Mobile Advertising IDs (MAIDs) collected by apps to a person’s full name, physical address, and other personally identifiable information (PII). Motherboard confirmed this by posing as a potential customer of a company offering to link MAID to PII …
This anonymization industry uses various terms to describe its product, including “identity resolution” and “identity graphic.” Other companies that claim to offer a service similar to BIGDBM include FullContact, which says it has 223 billion data points for the US, as well as profiles of more than 275 million adults in the US.
“Our full person identity chart provides personal and professional attributes of an individual, as well as online and offline identifiers,” FullContact marketing material available online, adds that it can include names, addresses, social identifications, and MAIDs. .
In short, if you have a cell phone, there is a possibility that there is some “anonymized” data about you and that data could be de-anonymized by any number of companies willing to do so for a price.
It is not difficult to see how this type of data could become a weapon used against any number of people or even a means to blackmail someone. Younger people who are more attached to their phones potentially face a lifetime of waiting to be canceled the moment someone decides they deserve it.