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April 13, 2011

Somebody's watching you.

I'm don't know if you have a "smart phone" or not, but here's a heads-up for you.

I noticed when I got my "smart phone" that I have the option of letting my phone disclose my location. I decided that, for safety's sake, I didn't like that at all. It seemed to me that someone unscrupulous could use that information. While I'm not paranoid by any means, I do try to use basic safety precautions. As it happens, my precaution may not have been all that effective.

It turns out that Malte Spitz, a politician from Germany's Green Party, learned that the "someone unscrupulous" I mentioned was his phone carrier, Deutsche Telekom. Spitz went to his phone carrier to find out what sort of information they collect on him. And as it says in this article, "In a six-month period — from Aug 31, 2009, to Feb. 28, 2010, Deutsche Telekom had recorded and saved his longitude and latitude coordinates more than 35,000 times."

Evidently your phone... and mine... are "smarter" than we realize. They provide the phone company with a continuous stream of information - whether we like it or not. Whether we give them permission or not. Whether we know it or not.

U.S. law enforcement agencies in the U.S. - such as the FBI & the DEA - have used information collected and retained by cell phone providers to arrest unwary customers. And while I think this technology has potential to make our world a safer one, it may also have a potential for great harm. My faith in my government has taken a serious hit. Call me a cynic, but I think there are a few "unscrupulous" folks in our government.

The New York Times article I mentioned also points out that there are other entities which may - or may not - have access to this information. "If the information is valuable to law enforcement, it could be lucrative for marketers. The major American cellphone providers declined to explain what exactly they collect and what they use it for."

The companies we do business with often provide customers with a copy of their "privacy policy". I would wager that most of us probably don't bother to read them, but it might not be a bad idea. Here are some excerpts from Verizon's privacy policy, for example:
Verizon collects and uses information about our customers and Web visitors for a variety of purposes. Information may be obtained when you order and use our products and services, when you make customer service inquiries, or when you visit our Web sites.

We use such information to deliver, provide, and repair products or services; establish and maintain customer accounts and billing records; contact you about our products and services and better direct specific offers or promotions to you; monitor Web site statistics; monitor our customer service employees; or establish your online account and authenticate you during log-in.

You may see third-party advertisements on some Verizon Web sites. In some instances, third-party ad networks may seek to provide advertising that they believe is more relevant to your interests. In these instances, cookies may be used by ad networks to collect information about your visit to our Web sites and may be combined with information collected by these ad networks on other Web sites. You may limit this use. 

Verizon shares customer information across our family of companies for marketing purposes unless you advise us not to. Specific laws govern our sharing of certain customer information known as Customer Proprietary Network Information.
The policy goes on to advise the customer what to do to limit the use of information Verizon obtains, but once again... who reads the privacy policies of companies they do business with?

Maybe it's time we start.


9 comments:

  1. hello! following from Welcome Wednesday

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  2. You're right...VERY disturbing!

    Thanks so much for dropping by the Be-Bop-A Blog Hop! I'm a follower and I hope you'll stop by again soon! Have a great day! :)

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  3. Well I think if it gets in the wrong hands it can be dangerous and certainly you could sue the phone company if that happens. Personally I don't even tweet when I go on vacation for fear someone will go oh ok, I'll go rob this person. Instead I share all that stuff after the fact.

    But I know people who share everything and post in facebook and it posts where they are at with their latitude and longitude.

    I also think that it is great smart phones can do this. Say you get stuck in a location and your phone is with you but you can't access it. The phone company can look up the last place it transmitted a signal and find you.

    So yeah there are pros and cons, but mostly I think there are more pros. It just depends on how the information is used.

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  4. It is a known fact that when the police suspect someone of any crime, the first thing they do is take their computer. So why not the phones? I know I should be more careful myself. And I definitely know better! Yes, big brother is watching each and every one of us.

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  5. scary...

    As long as you have a loving big brother, I guess it is ok, but if big brother gets nasty, that could be really scary...

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  6. Thanks for the follow, I am already a follower. Have a nice day.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi, I am your youngest and newest follower from the bloghop, hope you can follow the little blog of a newbie like me, thanks in advance!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi, I found you on the Fab Friends Thursday blog hop and now I'm a new
    follower! Hop over and say HI if you get a chance
    Just Wedeminute

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  9. New follower here, would love a follow back at http://www.livingonadollar.com

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