Smartphone Tracking – Progress or Big Brother?

Did you know that mobile carriers responded to more than 1.3 million requests for call data from law enforcement last year?  What does that mean for the average smartphone user?  Being tracked through mobile devices could be a double-edged sword.

Law Enforcement and Government Tracking

Mobile carriers are now able to assist law enforcement in tracking drug dealers, terrorists, and other criminals by turning over their call data. The government is now able to conduct surveillance projects by obtaining call information from your mobile carrier. We all want the bad guys to get caught, but let’s be honest – no one wants to be “watched” by a force larger than themselves. Our privacy, or what’s left of it, has been diluted by the advent of mobile devices in more ways than one.  But if you aren’t a criminal, what’s the harm?


Advertisers and certain types of marketing agencies are gathering information on mobile users constantly.  They may not know your name, but they know your habits.  They’re able to determine whether you’re a student, if you’re employed, where you shop and what you buy.  Our economy depends upon the exchange of money, and companies value this information about you because it allows them to target their marketing to the right people.  In other words, if advertisers see that your activities include three trips to church each week, you will likely be seeing ads about religious books and CDs on your smartphone screen.  If you frequent restaurants and hotels, you’ll be gifted with ads and offers for them – you get the idea.

Since we use a smartphones for everything from mapping a trip to paying for a case of diapers, the device becomes a snapshot of who we are and how we live.  That information can be tracked and used.

Law professor, Paul Ohm, says, Every year, private companies spend millions of dollars developing new services that track, store and share the words, movements and even the thoughts of their customers, These invasive services have proved irresistible to consumers, and millions now own sophisticated tracking devices (smartphones) studded with sensors and always connected to the Internet”.

Should we ditch our smartphones?

Absolutely not. But it’s important to understand that our actions are no longer our own business, and a bit of discretion and awareness goes a long way.

  • Turn off your GPS features when you aren’t using them, and make sure they’re turned off on your kids’ phones.
  • Have a powerful security package installed on your phone that will tell you when you’re about to contract spyware or other invasive malware.
  • Keep your phone clean and clear of anything you wouldn’t want to share with the world.
  • Use unique passwords for all banking and credit card information.
  • Keep your phone on lock-down when there’s a chance you might walk away from it
  • The next time you use your smartphone to buy diapers, expect to see a special ad for baby powder or formula.

How do you feel about having your habits revealed to marketers?

Do you think government access to your smartphone activities is fair?  Talk to us on our blog, or share your thoughts with us on our Facebook page.  We want to hear your stories.

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