Verizon to add location warning labels on phones

By on May 2, 2011, 12:58 PM

Congressmen Edward Markey (Massachusetts) and Joe Barton (Texas) recently asked the four major US wireless carriers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile) about data collection, storage, and disclosure practices for customers' personally identifiable information. All four have since responded, and their letters can be accessed at house.gov.

The most interesting response is Verizon Wireless' 17-page letter (PDF). It reveals that Verizon plans to soon put a removable sticker on the display of new handsets that warns the user the device may be used to track their location. A sample sticker was provided and here's what it said:

This device is capable of determining its (and your) physical and geographical location and can associate this location data with other customer information. To limit access to location information by others, refer to the user guide for Location settings and be cautious when downloading, accessing, or using applications and services.

Verizon did not detail when the stickers might begin to appear. The company did reveal, however, that it retains user data (including location details) for seven years. Verizon implied that only law enforcement can request access to that information, and that it is not provided or sold to other parties.

The label likely won't actually stop consumers from buying and using smartphones. It will, however, educate them and possibly make them think twice about what information they are broadcasting without deliberately choosing to.

The news follows the discovery that iOS and Android both cache your position, typically determined by cell-tower triangulation, either triggered by traveling between cells or activity on the device itself. This has prompted investigations by regulators in France, Germany, Italy, and South Korea. Interestingly though, this Verizon label is actually in response to a New York Times that raised concerns about how carriers collect and store personal location data, not the recent location caching fiasco.




User Comments: 7

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Xclusiveitalian Xclusiveitalian said:

Any phone can track you anywhere, you actually pay a tax for it on your phone bill and it's in case they can't locate you the police are able to track your phone. Lots of people are touchy about there privacy while loading there facebook with more information than the average hacks gets in a day, perhaps it's a good thing they can track you in case one day you go missing.

Inarius03 said:

Xclusiveitalian said:

Any phone can track you anywhere, you actually pay a tax for it on your phone bill and it's in case they can't locate you the police are able to track your phone. Lots of people are touchy about there privacy while loading there facebook with more information than the average hacks gets in a day, perhaps it's a good thing they can track you in case one day you go missing.

Hahaha, very nice! I completely agree. Thank you for the laughs.

BlindObject said:

My GPS and WIFI is ALWAYS off. I only turn them on when needed.

madboyv1, TechSpot Paladin, said:

The label likely won't actually stop consumers from buying and using smartphones. It will, however, educate them and possibly make them think twice about what information they are broadcasting without deliberately choosing to.

And knowing is half the battle. YO JOE!

It also gives them a get out of lawsuit card since they would be actively telling users that at any time they could be tracked by that device via its various capabilities, and you'd have to physically remove that sticker if they want an unimpeded screen.

Zilpha Zilpha said:

I'd rather they be able to find me if heaven forbid I end up mauled at the side of the road by a wild cat or something.

People are touchy because they are being naughty. They are being naughty, because they previously had an anonymous forum in which to behave any way they want. I guarantee you the most vocal among those screaming about privacy invasion are doing so because they are worried someone will catch them somewhere they shouldn't be.

Leeky Leeky said:

I'd rather they be able to find me if heaven forbid I end up mauled at the side of the road by a wild cat or something

Seconded!

The ability to track our phones location has good uses as well.

If people want privacy they should stop their obsession with Facebook - the content individuals post on there is unreal and in my honest opinion far more destructive to their well-being.

LinkedKube LinkedKube, TechSpot Project Baby, said:

I have no issues with my phone pulling certain information from it, or my xoom for that matter.

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