Remember that 80’s song that said, “I always feel like, somebody’s watching me...” Well sing that tune in 2012, with your cell phone in hand, and you could be right. Let’s face it-- you can’t leave home without your smart phone and cellular companies know it. But here's what you may not know: Your every day habits are making them money! Each time you send a text, look up a website, snap a QR code, head into a store, or even drive past one with your GPS on-- your cell phone company may be tracking your every move. Yup. Weird!
“They know you were playing Angry Birds. They know that you drove by Sears. They know you drove by Dominos pizza, so they can take that and take a very unique algorithm that can focus on your behavior. It's very impactful,” says marketing insider Mark Johnson. He confirms: Your data trail is worth a lot of dough to cell phone companies.
Many people have no idea this information is being collected, packaged with details about your age and gender, aggregated and sometimes sold to third parties. When smart phone user Harrine Freeman drives and shops she turns off her GPS. “It does seem creepy that companies are collecting all this information about consumers.”
Harrine even takes an extra step, constantly clearing her browser history. “I think it's an invasion of privacy, I don’t think cell phone companies should sell your information.”
Here’s the bottom line: All the major cell phone carriers admit to collecting your info. Verizon acknowledges that it aggregates the information, and sells it to businesses without personally identifying its customers.
Sprint company spokesperson Stephanie Vinge Walsh says, “We think it’s a benefit to receive ads targeting your interests rather than ads which may not be relevant.”
Critics say these data collecting programs are something cell phone customers are automatically opted into. Their only notification is a privacy notice stuffed in their bill or sent in an email that’s often difficult to understand and written in fine print. Rainey Reitman from the Electronic Frontier Foundation says if you want to opt out, the burden is on YOU to take the extra effort. “I don't really think that most people are going to review every email they get form their cell phone company and then go thru the extra step of opting out of this targeted advertisement.”
One last tip: Be careful of third party apps you download that request to “use your location” if you don’t want to be tracked, hit “NO.”
More from GalTime:
- 5 Easy Ways to Keep Your Phone Safe from Privacy Pirates
- Results Are In: Which Carriers Have the Best and Worst Cell Phone Service
- Smishing - The Latest Identity Theft Threat