Malte Spitz asked his cell phone carrier what it knew about him — and mapped what he found out.

Why you should listen

German Green Party politician Malte Spitz is an expert on digital change and privacy.

In 2009, Spitz went to court to obtain the information that his cell phone operator, Deutsche Telekom, gathered (and kept) about his activity. The results astonished him. Over the course of six months, they had tracked his geographical location and what he was doing with his phone more than 35,000 times. Working with the German online news site Zeit Online, an infographic was created that shows Spitz's activity across an interactive timeline, combined DT's geolocation data with information relating to his life as a politician, such as Twitter feeds, blog entries and website. By pushing the play button, viewers can set off on a detail-rich trip through six months of his life. And more, because he keeps asking the telecom company for his most recent data.

Spitz is the author of the book What Are You Doing with My Data? and has contributed to international publications, such as the New York Times and The Guardian. Spitz lives with his wife and two kids in Berlin.

What others say

“Seen individually, the pieces of data are mostly inconsequential and harmless. But taken together, they provide what investigators call a profile–a clear picture of a person’s habits and preferences, and indeed, of his or her life.” — "Betrayed by Our Own Data," Die Zeit

Malte Spitz’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Malte Spitz


This July 4, protests against data surveillance

July 4, 2013

Today, several US-based internet communities — including 4chan (watch Christopher “moot” Poole’s TED Talk), Mozilla (watch Gary Kovacs’ talk), Fark (Drew Curtis has given a TED Talk too), and Reddit (Alexis Ohanian has given a talk and created a TED playlist) — are rallying against NSA surveillance of the internet, as revealed by a whistleblower in June. Visit any of these sites […]

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What data is being collected on you? Some shocking info

July 24, 2012

On August 31, 2009, politician Malte Spitz traveled from Berlin to Erlangen, sending 29 text messages as he traveled. On November 5, 2009, he rocked out to U2 at the Brandenburg Gate. On January 10, 2010, he made 10 outgoing phone calls while on a trip to Dusseldorf, and spent 22 hours, 53 minutes and […]

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Self-determination in the digital age: Malte Spitz at TEDGlobal 2012

June 27, 2012

As curator Chris Anderson says, politicians don’t generally turn up on the TED stage. This year, there are two in a row, as Alex Salmond is followed by Malte Spitz, a member of the Green Party in Germany. “A mobile phone can change your life and give you individual freedom,” says Spitz. “With a mobile phone you […]

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