Turning What You Do Against You

Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill, the former general secretary of the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB), may be an unlikable hypocrite. However, his career in the Catholic Church ended abruptly in a way that is a warning to all of us.

You see, Msgr. Burrill has a cell phone, and like all cell phones, his has a tag that advertisers use to track response to ads. The tag is supposedly anonymous, that is, no personally identifying information is associated with it. However, that’s easy to fox.

An enterprising soul with knowledge of Mr. Burrill and how these systems work found an ad tag that, according to GPS, spent time where he lived and at a home his family owns. It’s not a big jump from there to link the tag to Mr. Burrill himself.

The snooper then looked to see where else that tag turned up. It turns out that the tag physically visited several taverns catering to the gay community, and also visited a gay dating website, Grindr.

This led to assertions published online that Msgr, Burrill was involved in activities that the Church doesn’t condone, and that led to his resignation.

The problem is that with a little knowledge or money and with information on your target, you can do this to virtually anyone. In turn, almost anyone could do it to you. Got any secrets? They’re not secrets anymore.

Divorce lawyers can have a field day with this. Conversely, activists have to assume every movement is being tracked, even without the use of Israeli software for that purpose.

There’s a fundamental problem with lax US privacy laws. Maybe of some Congressmen are outed, these laws might get fixed.


  1. https://www.vice.com/en/article/pkbxp8/grindr-location-data-priest-weaponization-app?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits
  2. https://www.businessinsider.com/military-grade-spyware-company-used-to-hack-journalists-activists-executives-2021-7?op=1
Privacy in the US

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