Smartphone users, through the GPS and most often without their knowledge, routinely have their location tracked twenty-four hours a day. This is opening up some of the most sensitive data collected on us to be hacked and utilized by pedophiles and cybercriminal syndicates.
The data being collected by networks and wireless hotspot operators is of customers’ movements, and this type of metadata can reveal the most intimate details of our lives. It is so detailed that a customer’s religion, sexual orientation, gender, and even much more personal data than that are at risk.
Did you know you can track where your children are, in real time, through their smartphones? You may have heard of this capability before. The Global Positioning System, almost always turned on by default, triangulates and pings the nearest cell tower(s) continuously; and this triangulation through three cell towers can pinpoint a user’s location up to a distance of only a few meters. This gives parents the ability to always know where their children are and that can only be a good thing, right?
Well frighteningly enough, all of this tracking data can be stolen from the third-parties gathering it, and kidnappers and pedophiles can gain access to your child’s every movement! Advocates warn that our kids could be followed as they leave school, or home intruders could break in while the house is vacant for the day. The practical application for this in the hands of a sex offender is terrifying.
Both Krowdthink and the Open Rights Group (ORG) conducted independent investigations recently into just how many people's data can be stolen over these types of unsecured networks and open Wi-Fi spots, and the results were unsettling.
According to Krowdthink’s study, roughly 93% of citizens in the UK are, by default, opted in to location tracking on their smartphones. This gives cell phone companies and other various wireless operators nearly unlimited access to their location, twenty-four hours a day.
By connecting the physical lives of the users with their digital ones, this form of tracking can be the most intrusive of all.
Even though all of the cellular providers contacted by ORG claim to anonymize their customers’ data, typically all it takes is one cross-reference with another set of data, like voter registration, to reveal the identities of everyone being tracked.
Jim Killock, the ORG’s executive director, said, “Mobile service providers need to collect and keep data so that they can bill us for our services."
“But just because they collect this data does not mean that they have an automatic right to process that data for other purposes without our consent. If they don’t, they are removing our right to control this data and the risks associated with their using it.”
Cell phone towers provide location data, whenever they track a customer, in order to route a call to them. In the UK for example, there are an estimated 52,000 cell phone towers with some being as close as 150 feet away.
Unsecured wireless hotspots also potentially can be location trackers, with most providers auto-opting customers into location tracking simply by agreeing with the terms and conditions. In many cases, these open Wi-Fi locations will still log registered customers’ movements, even if they did not sign into the service as they passed through.
Both ORG and Krowdthink have warned their users to turn off wireless internet and GPS tracking when they know they’ll be passing through these troubled hotspots. They have also warned cell phone users about the dangers of providing tracking data on their location when sharing photos, videos, and downloading mobile apps.
The other obvious answer is to put your cell phone into a Silent Pocket Faraday cage product to prevent data from being transmitted and received by it!
We have to be diligent about our personal information and cannot wait for telecommunications companies to do the right thing with our collective data.
Be sure to take the short but necessary steps to protect yourself.
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