Wireless carriers: Your data is safe with us, but we can't speak for third parties

Phone companies say they obtain user permission before using customers' location to find info

As companies such as Apple and Google try to pry consumers away from thoughts of being stalked by their mobile devices, wireless carriers have joined the conversation, insisting they are not the ones to worry about.

AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile all say they obtain user permission before using a customer’s location to find information, according to the Associated Press.

The carriers warned that, although they comply with federal privacy rules about sharing phone data, they can't control third parties and don’t know whether all third parties get similar consent.

A day after Apple admitted a bug in its location-tracking on the iPhone, the four wireless companies sent letters to Congress responding to questions by lawmakers and outlining their privacy practices.

The letters revealed varied privacy policies and included information about how long the data is saved, writes Cecilia Kang on the Washington Post's Tech blog.

In 2009, AT&T began working on encrypting all “sensitive personal information” and gets rid of sensitive data within five years, writes Michelle Amodio of TMCnet. T-Mobile did not say whether its information is encrypted, but the company told Post Tech it holds onto personal data “as long as we have a business need."

In response to the recent revelations about data collection, Apple and Google were hit with class-action lawsuits. The Detroit News reported that two women in Michigan filed a $50 million class-action lawsuit asking that Google stop selling Androids that track a consumer's location.

Two Florida men sued Apple over the location-tacking issues in iOS 4, citing a serious risk of privacy invasions and stalking.

Both companies have said they use tracking information to build a database of cell towers and Wi-Fi network locations, not to follow a person’s whereabouts.

About the Author

Alysha Sideman is the online content producer for Washington Technology.


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