Thanks to a nationwide ACLU campaign to learn how our cell phones are being used to monitor us, we now know that cell phone service providers keep a staggering amount of data about their customers:
- Call records up to seven years.
- Contact information of who you’ve exchanged text messages for up to seven years.
- Cell tower history — which helps track the movement of your cell phone: all data from July 2008 onward.
- Copies of paid bills for up to seven years.
- IP addresses assigned to your device for up to one year.
Tell your cell phone service provider that you demand an explanation of the information that is kept about your account, when and how it is shared with third parties, and an easy way to control how long your private information is kept. Additionally, tell them you demand to be notified if this information is ever lost in a data breach or demanded by the government or anyone else.
If you use AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon, this affects you.
Some of the reasons behind this data aggregation stems from law enforcement demands/expectations. Some stems from the low amount of storage all of this data (effectively) amounts to. Some stems from a need to plot out use patterns and predict growth rates. Some stems from a belief that more data is good data.
Regardless, the ACLU is right: customers should be demanding to know exactly why this data is being retained, the purposes the data is used for, and the parties that the data is shared with. Remember: if it isn’t collected or stored, it can’t be used against you in commercial, civil, or governmental practices.