Is Your Thanksgiving Under Surveillance?

Bochkarev Photography/

Here's food for thought while you're chowing down on turkey this year.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and many Americans will try and spend as much time as possible with their families. Just as many will try and spend as little time as possible with their families. 

Researchers at Stanford decided to study the amount of time Americans spent with their families on Turkey day in 2016, to see if that amount had declined from the previous year. It turns out, it did. According to the study, Americans had about a 30-minute shorter meal, likely due to political divisions among family members following the contentious 2016 election.

But how did Stanford come up with all this data? Study authors M. Keith Chen and Ryne Rohla relied on SafeGraph, a San Francisco based data company. SafeGraph specifically provided the study with location tracking data it obtained from, "mobile application developers, through APIs and other delivery methods."

According to the study, the location tracking data consisted of 'pings', which identified the longitude and latitude of a smartphone during a particular moment in time. And SafeGraph is tracking a lot of smartphones.

"SafeGraph tracks the location of more than 10 million Americans’ smartphones, and our core analysis focuses on the more than 17 trillion pings SafeGraph collected in the continental United States in November of 2016," explained the study.

So, if you opened up your Facebook app to show Grandma a picture during dinner, and then opened up the Waze app to find the best route to drive home, the data could paint a picture of how much time you actually spent with your family.

What apps is SafeGraph mining it's data from? According to Mashable, the company has yet to say.

It serves as a stark reminder that every app we download, every piece of tech we use collects data on us, and we don't always no where that data will end up or what it will be used for. Happy Thanksgiving!