Escaping the Trap of Cell Phone Tracking

[Editor’s Note: This article is a guest post by JoBeth Hartford. She works for a mobile media company writing video scripts. She hopes to start her own mobile tech publication someday in the future. The article tackles the topic of cell phone tracking – mainly from a non-governmental angle – not highlighting the recent issues revealed by Snowden’s disclosures regarding the FCC. Personally, I’m not concerned about “Big Brother” watching me, I figured we have been being watched for years now. 🙂 My recommendation: stick with a smartphone, they make life easier…]

Introduction

The idea that the government can access private phone calls has always been a hot topic, bringing up questions like “Is government listening in?” “Are phone logs tracked?” “Can text messages be accessed?” After making headlines during the Bush administration, this subject has been in the news again recently, when it was discovered the government has been tracking cell phone records of people of interest.

The idea that your phone may not be as secure and private as previously thought has many people understandably concerned. After all, most people think when they call their friends, family, co-workers, or the guy who is handling their car repair, any information will stay between the exchanged voices on the cell phones.

The FCC and Phones

As it turns out, cell phone privacy is a real enough issue that the Federal Communications Commission recently planned a vote on whether to require cellular carriers to better protect their customers’ privacy. The new rules, if approved, would make sure that cell phone companies were taking “reasonable precautions” to safeguard any personal information, including which phone numbers their customers were dialing, the locations of the calls being made, and even how many minutes or hours the calls lasted.

The FCC began to take a hard look at cell phones and privacy matters after a security researcher discovered a couple of years ago that cell phone companies often utilize a specific type of software that is capable of gathering data about how and what consumers are doing with their cell phones. While the cell phone companies contend they only use the data to learn more about their phones and networks, it was concerning enough to cause the FCC to take action.

For most law-abiding citizens, the thought their mobile service provider or even the government can monitor a text reminding their spouse to pick up milk, or their calls to friends about what their kids are up to, is definitely troubling. While it seems safe to say people who are not doing anything wrong have nothing to worry about, the situation has Big Brother overtones that have many people wondering what to make of all of it.

How Cell Phone Users Can Take Action

Fortunately, there are steps cell phone users can take to help protect their privacy as much as possible. People who are truly concerned about this issue should opt for a disposable phone, which may be more difficult to trace back. Of course, this type of phone may not be the best solution for folks who truly need all the bells and whistles of a fancier device. In this case, people can use a free app such as Protect My Privacy, which stops other apps from getting a hold of contacts and other personal information stored on the phone.

Certain brands of cell phones also tend to be more easily accessible. For example, some phones are automatically linked to its owner’s Google account, which means each and every text and call is easily tracked. Inquire about your phone’s connections and privacy features. For those who are concerned about privacy, simply purchase a different type of cell phone.

What’s your opinion about the personal security of cell phone usage? Share it in the comments.

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