Cell Phones as Trackers

Friday, July 20, 2012

ProPublica’s Peter Maass and Megha Rajagopalan explain how the cell phone, the device that most people carry around all the time, can be used as a tracker. In a piece jointly published by ProPublica and the New York Times Sunday Review, they describe how cell phones track "what we buy, where and when we buy it, how much money we have in the bank, whom we text and email, what Web sites we visit, how and where we travel, what time we go to sleep and wake up.”  They also look into how much of that data is shared with companies who use it for marketing.


Peter Maass and Megha Rajagopalan

Comments [20]

Solution For Small Business from Noida

Hey its A Nice Post….. Wana Know About That Just Log On To

Feb. 15 2013 05:41 AM
mal from Maryland

Good job with identifying this issue that could become problematic for many people and we all have to be very cautious of what we share with others every moment of our day.

Jul. 20 2012 12:44 PM
Brian from South Orange NJ

Can I get tracking data on my own phone?

Jul. 20 2012 12:36 PM
Station44025 from Brooklyn

Nick: there's facial recognition for that.

I find the general lack of alarm about privacy issues extremely alarming as well as the sentiment that, as long as the government isn't trampling civil liberties too much, whatever private industry wants to do is fair game.

Jul. 20 2012 12:34 PM
Mike from Tribeca

Would I be exempt from tracking if my phone number had a Cayman Islands area code?

Jul. 20 2012 12:33 PM
Jay from New York

There is already a service-- free on the web that follows the speed of the cell phones in cars -- thereby showing you the traffic jam ups. Just used this to figure out how far ahead on the highway the accident was. Got off the interstate and jumped ahead of the accident -- avoiding hour+ wait. Fantastic!

Jul. 20 2012 12:33 PM
Amy from Manhattan

How can they know if you're at a demonstration? They might know you're in the area where a rally is happening, but how can they tell if you're just watching it or happen to be nearby rather than participating?

Jul. 20 2012 12:33 PM
Stevo from Jersey

Can our cell phone find Governer Romney's tax records?

Jul. 20 2012 12:33 PM
Nick from UWS

Keeping track of this, keeping track of that, keeping track of the other thing....that is indicative primarily of a control freak attitude towards life, fear of the unknown, OCD. These are people who need to know the end of a movie before they see it. It's a sickness.

Jul. 20 2012 12:31 PM
The Truth from Becky

I don't mind the cell phone pings, God forbid you come up missing you want people to know where to start looking BUT if I find out that my conversation can be heard with my phone in the OFF or IDLE position I'm gonna be pissed!
I don't have anything to hide but I don't want to be illegally wire tapped either!!!

Jul. 20 2012 12:30 PM
John A

Are the guests saying that cell tower data is available to be sold outside the company - to a non-law-enforcement organization?

Jul. 20 2012 12:28 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I actually do read the agreements, & it does take a lot of time. That's a major reason I'm not on many of the services available today. In some cases I even call or email the companies w/questions, & the people who answer say that's very unusual. But the mortgages so many people used to sign without reading them have shown we all need to know what we're signing.

Jul. 20 2012 12:27 PM
tim from nyc

what type of cellphones, i.e. contract versus prepaid, flip phone versus smartphone, offer the most privacy?

Jul. 20 2012 12:22 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Hmm...wonder if the cell phone can tell the right floor in buildings that skip 13 in numbering their floors!

Jul. 20 2012 12:22 PM

Slightly tangential. but... a friend who has recently been streaming foreign language films started getting print advertisements via US mail in those same foreign languages. Talk about creepy...

Jul. 20 2012 12:19 PM
Bonnie from New Jersey

I doubt you could negotiate a different contract. I think the sales people would say take it or leave it. It would probably take a planned campaign to pressure the companies to offer different options.

Jul. 20 2012 12:17 PM

A friend of mine who was interviewed for and later accepted a Federal law enforcement position said that during an initial interview phase, he was told interviewed via web conference from his apartment, but that his cell phone and those owned by others in his building all went dead during the interview.
Also told me that like your guests just mentioned, the phone was able to record voice information even though the phone appeared to be off.
Crazy story, not sure if this is science fiction.

Jul. 20 2012 12:13 PM
Nick from UWS

The answer is to stop drinking the Kool-Aid, stop being a complete cell phone zombie, get your face out of the damn thing, and start living your life like a normal human being. Anyone who would do their banking etc on their cell phone is an utter idiot. STOP LIVING YOUR LIFE THROUGH A CELL PHONE.

Jul. 20 2012 12:12 PM
Victor from Ramsey, NJ

At least one aspect of tracking is beneficial for the community - google maps displaying the traffic based on a large number of inputs from cell phone users

Jul. 20 2012 12:11 PM
james from nyc

Try taking a battery out of the Iphone..

Good luck

Jul. 20 2012 12:10 PM

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