Political affiliation aside, 2,000 Mules has raised more than its share of eyebrows. One element of the film relies on precise geolocation data generated from cellphones. Fact-checkers were quick to claim it wasn’t possible for filmmakers to collect GPS location data with such accuracy—but they’re wrong in spectacular fashion. 2000 Mules cellphone data and geolocation data could very well be accurate to a stunning degree.
2000 Mules cellphone data and geolocation accuracy
If you’re not familiar, Dinesh D’Souza has produced 2000 Mules, a hotly debated film that implies mass election fraud in the 2020 elections. Politics and controversy aside, after the movie was released I was asked by a business contact if data collection of this accuracy was even possible to acquire. “For the right price, oh yes,” I replied.
Writing about the cellphone data used in the film, the AP stated, “…cellphone location data…is not precise enough to confirm that somebody deposited a ballot into a dropbox, according to experts.” PolitiFact similarly wrote “Such geospatial data is not precise enough to prove without uncertainty that a person submitted a ballot to a drop.” But not only is geotracking data this accurate, it has been available to the tech industry for at least 5-years. In fact, it’s still being used today.
Is user cellphone geolocation data accessible?
Despite the accuracy of cellphone data, the question remains: is cellphone geolocation accessible? Absolutely.
Let me rewind the clock.
I was working with a large beverage company that was looking to innovate across its retail storefronts. They were interested in new interactive experiences in exciting places where people consumed their beverages in droves (i.e. bars, restaurants, dance clubs, swing dance halls, etc.). To show the company’s executives the “art of the possible”, the technology company I worked for hosted their leadership team at our state-of-the-art innovation center.
We started the workshop with presentations to set the stage and draw out ideas and desires around what could be possible when you marry technology with marketing and intent. From there, we moved on to a tour of what other companies dreamed up with the help of the innovation center. Everything from technology that helps map out and identify concussions with American football players to extreme uses in robotics for manufacturing and healthcare. We showed technology that highlighted everyday improvements to a person’s home life and frictionless interaction with entertainment and creature comforts. We had some of the smartest people from this beverage behemoth getting a peek into how they can gain new insights and footholds in different markets. Then we hit them with what we could do with location data.
Once we had completed the tour, the executives were ushered into a uniquely experiential theater room that could accommodate 30 or so people. This was the coup de grâce. We all sat in our theater seats and our tour guide handed the reigns over to an engineer, and we waited in anticipation. Before we jumped in, the engineer prefaced that we were about to see something that could revolutionize the way this beverage enterprise could track and gain detailed insight into their consumers. Then began the live demo of geotracking. The accuracy was unbelievable. Is 2000 Mules cellphone data just as accurate? No one can be sure, but it’s certainly attainable.
What kind of cell phone geolocation data is accessible?
We were blown away at the detail and accuracy of the individuals that were being displayed on the screen—myself included. We were not being shown the identity of individuals, but we were being given generalities of their person, which included but not limited to age range, sex/gender, likes/dislikes, time spent in front of tv screens in a bar, how long they were at said bar to when they went to a new location, and how many people joined from one location to the next. To say that we, as people, are being tracked 24/7 is an understatement. The idea wheels were now turning, statements were being made, audible “wow’s” were being uttered, but then the BIG question was asked, “What would it take for us to gain access to the identity of these individuals?” It got so quiet that you could hear a feather drop.
Is 2000 Mules cell phone geolocation data accurate?
I can’t begin to answer questions on election fraud, but is geotracking of incredible accuracy mentioned in the film possible and being used today? Absolutely. It is attainable by anyone willing to pay the right amount of cash? Yes, and it’s far more detailed than you know. Would you like to know what the engineer’s answer to the executive was? I might need an NDA…
“It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.” 1984 by George Orwell
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Eric Skeens is the co-founder of 3 Tree Tech in Portland. He is a platform-agnostic tech researcher that transitions siloed organizations into automated DevOps centric businesses. Message him right here.