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China Privacy Stats The Internet Science

How Baidu Tracked the Largest Seasonal Migration of People On Earth 48

KentuckyFC writes During the Chinese New Year earlier this year, some 3.6 billion people traveled across China making it the largest seasonal migration on Earth. These kinds of mass movements have always been hard to study in detail. But the Chinese web services company Baidu has managed it using a mapping app that tracked the location of 200 million smartphone users during the New Year period. The latest analysis of this data shows just how vast this mass migration is. For example, over 2 million people left the Guandong province of China and returned just a few days later--that's equivalent to the entire population of Chicago upping sticks. The work shows how easy it is to track the movement of large numbers of people with current technology--assuming they are willing to allow their data to be used in this way.
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How Baidu Tracked the Largest Seasonal Migration of People On Earth

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  • The work shows how easy it is to track the movement of large numbers of people with current technology--assuming they are willing to allow their data to be used in this way.

    Right..."willing"...let's go with that.

    • They agreed to that in the terms. So they had the choice. :-)

      I think the root of the problem is that most people don't care about their data, and therefore don't demand for change in the terms. Telcos would give you options if enough people cared.

      Digital devices make being monitored very convenient. People would object if they had to fill out forms or similar, but as long as they don't get disturbed with their daily lifes they don't care.

    • Well, in fairness, when everyone flies home for Thanksgiving, the airports and people who provide wifi will be able to do the exact same thing.

      'Willing' can include "don't give a fuck as along as they have free wifi and can update their Facebook status/play whatever game they're all playing".

      The modern definition of "willing" when you're discussing technology is "hasn't disabled this functionality or removed the battery from their phone".

      Who needs consent when you own the network?

    • Never fear. TFA says:

      "The Chinese researchers mention the question of privacy, however. That’s an issue that would make this kind of tracking difficult in democratic countries, or at least the public acknowledgement of it.

      See that? Companies that make apps would never dare to ask you to let them access your location if you live in a democracy.

      • Ha ha, welcome to America, land of the Free, where your actions and movements are never tracked. Laughable.

        Just 20 years ago, I honestly believed that if we started to get security cameras everywhere like Great Britain was doing, they would just get shot out all the time. I actually thought that.

  • The work shows how easy it is to track the movement of large numbers of people with current technology--assuming they are willing to allow their data to be used in this way.

    And the ones who aren't? Well, we'll track them, too! One way or another.

    • Given that 3.6 billion is almost three times the population of China I'm guessing they are using somewhat dodgy statistics either that or they are counting each journey made by the same person and that person makes multiple journeys.
      • It's China. Every last thing they release is a fake/lie/fraud. That extends to statistics. You should go read what they say about their own pollution levels. They make the vacuum of space look dirty by comparison.
        • You should go read what they say about their own pollution levels. They make the vacuum of space look dirty by comparison.

          Actually they might technically be correct if they are claiming that their air is "just like being in space": in both cases you need to bring your own oxygen supply to survive.

  • by shilly ( 142940 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2014 @03:50PM (#48371863)

    As others have said, 3.6bn people can't be travelling. I guess they must be counting individual, substantial journeys, but they don't say, which is a bit rubbish. I noticed that this number was unsourced, which also seemed a bit rubbish.

    • As others have said, 3.6bn people can't be travelling. I guess they must be counting individual, substantial journeys, but they don't say, which is a bit rubbish. I noticed that this number was unsourced, which also seemed a bit rubbish.

      I was wondering how the Chinese were hiding all those billions of extra people.

      • I was wondering how the Chinese were hiding all those billions of extra people.

        In underground shelters. They're preparing for the day they'll swarm out of hiding and bring the whole world into the light and harmony of Chinese Communism. The world will like this very much[*].

        But even secret armies deserve to go home for the holidays.

        [*] Extensive re-education may be required.

      • That are all second and third (illegal) children. Plus of course all the second wives (aka mistresses).

    • I'm more used to hearing about numbers in the tune of 200-300 million people travelling over the New Year holidays - China's most important celebration. That's mostly migrant workers travelling back home, plus some tens of millions of tourists.

      No matter what, this are huge numbers.

  • How did triple the population of China migrate across China?

  • World population is about 7.1 Billion (give or take a few). How did HALF THE WORLD'S POPULATION travel across China around a small time period. I feel like they may need to check a few number and make a move a few decimals.
    • I agree that it is a bit confusing. That number seems impossibly large. Perhaps they mean "number of passengers" which means that the same person making 2 return trips might be counted as 4 passengers? It is like saying "New York City's subway serves X million passengers per week", where every single person is probably counted multiple times based on the number of trips they make.
  • There's only 1.357 billion Chinese, so did all of them move, and another 2.243 billion come there from outside of China, to travel across China? The article really doesn't explain where they're getting the numbers from, & I'm having a hard time believing that HALF of all humans went to Beijing for Chinese New Year. According to the article, Baidu's app was on only 200 million cell phones to be able to do this.
  • I know baidu for being presented here in Brazil as an antivirus, with TV commercials, when actually it really acts as a virus!! Every device here has baidu installed, 1 person may have 1 or 2 cell phones, a tablet and a laptop and there you have the count..
  • by wcrowe ( 94389 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2014 @04:43PM (#48372443)

    This article [techinasia.com] says it's 3.6 billion passenger trips. Over a 40-day period, that's a little more believable, but I wonder what is counted as a "passenger trip". Let's say I live in NYC, and I want to travel to Lincoln, Nebraska for the holiday. So, subway ride to the airport, that's a passenger trip. Flight to hub in Chicago, another passenger trip. Flight from Chicago to Omaha, another passenger trip. Then whatever means I use to get from Omaha to Lincoln, another passenger trip. Coming home, I do the same thing all in reverse. That's eight passenger trips for one person for the holiday.

    So, you take the 3.6 billion passenger trips, and divide it by 4 or 6 or 8 or whatever you think is the average passenger trip per person. Then divide that over a 40 day period, and account for the difference in population, and maybe you get something like a multiple of the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S.

    I dunno, I'm just throwing it out there as a possibility.

    • but I wonder what is counted as a "passenger trip"

      It's probably something like this: Husband, wife, and child leave the big city to visit husband's parents (3 passenger trips). Same group visits wife's parents (3 more passenger trips). Group returns to the big city, total 9 passenger trips.

      • I'd be willing to bet it's intercity rail tickets + airline departures. So if you go from Shanghai to Chengdu by way of Wuhan and Chongquing, that's three passenger trips.

    • It's probably counted like that indeed.

      But don't overstate air traffic - it's still quite low capacity compared to trains and buses, which are the transport method of choice for all those migrant workers. Even in the US, if 20% of your population is on the move, 90% of those will have to take other transport than planes.

  • If you haven't seen the documentary Last Train Home about the struggles of being a seasonal worker in China and getting home to visit your family once a year, I highly recommend it. For anybody who thought the overcrowded dystopian future feared in the 1970's failed to occur, China is one place where it already did.
    • For anybody who thought the overcrowded dystopian future feared in the 1970's failed to occur, China is one place where it already did.

      Sheesh, another thing we outsourced to China

  • Can Slashdot at least try to tone down the retardation?

  • From the linked paper [arxiv.org], it was rejected:

    Rejected by Science after in-depth review

    This paper has not been peer reviewed [wikipedia.org]. Read with that in mind (peer review is academic currency).

    (That said, it doesn't get much more prestigious than Science. It's merely too early to bring this to bear. Perhaps it will eventually get accepted, reviewed, and then published. Only at that point can it be considered good research.)

  • The article says: "over 2 million people left the Guandong province of China and returned just a few days later--that's equivalent to the entire population of Chicago upping sticks"

    Sounds pretty major, right?

    Well, let's see according to Wikipedia, the population of Guangdong province was 105,940,000 in 2012. So approx. 2% of the population traveled out of province for Chinese New Years. 2% doesn't sound that big compared to "the entire population of Chicago" eh? To put it into perspective, the popu
  • The entire population of China is only 1.4 billion people.

    Somehow someone extrapolated 3.6 billion from observing 200 million smartphones. Sounds like a bunch of nonsense to me given that the entire population of China is less than 1.4 billion to start with.

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