Citizens' Issues
Public Interest Exclusive
Mobile companies will share your location data - just not with you

Who does your location information really belong to?

 

Cellphone companies hold onto your location information for years and routinely provide it to police and, in anonymized form, to outside companies.

As they note in their privacy policies, Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile all analyze your information to send you targeted ads for their own services or from outside companies. At least tens of thousands of times a year, they also hand cellphone location information to the FBI or police officers who have a court order.

But ProPublica discovered that there’s one person cell phone companies will not share your location information with: You.

We asked three ProPublica staffers and one friend to request their own geo-location data from the four largest cellphone providers. All four companies refused to provide it.
Here’s how they responded:

Verizon
On releasing location data to you: “Verizon Wireless will release a subscriber’s location information to law enforcement with that subscriber’s written consent. These requests must come to Verizon Wireless through law enforcement; so we would provide info on your account to law enforcement— with your consent— but not directly to you.”

On responding to requests from law enforcement: “ Unless a customer consents to the release of information or law enforcement certifies that there is an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury, Verizon Wireless does not release information to law enforcement without appropriate legal process.” A spokesman said being more specific would “require us to share proprietary information.”

Sprint
On releasing location data to you: “We do not normally release this information to customers for privacy reasons because call detail records contain all calls made or received, including calls where numbers are ‘blocked.’ Because of an FCC rule requiring that we not disclose ‘blocked’ numbers, we only release this information to a customer when we receive a valid legal demand for it.”

On responding to requests from law enforcement: “For law enforcement agencies, we release customer information only when compelled or permitted under existing laws. This includes, but is not limited to, circumstances under which there is a declaration from law enforcement of an exigent circumstance, as well as other valid legal process, such as subpoenas, search warrants, and court orders.”

AT&T
On releasing location data to you: “Giving customers location data for their wireless phones is not a service we provide.”
On responding to requests from law enforcement: A spokesman from AT&T declined to specifically address this question.

T-Mobile
On releasing location data to you:
“No comment.”
On responding to requests from law enforcement: “For law enforcement agencies, we release customer information only when compelled or permitted under existing laws. This includes, but is not limited to, circumstances under which there is a declaration from law enforcement of an exigent circumstance, as well as other valid legal process, such as subpoenas, search warrants, and court orders.”
––-
As location tracking by cell phone companies becomes increasingly accurate and widespread, the question of who your location data actually belongs to remains unresolved. Privacy activists in the U.S. say the law has not kept pace with developing technology and argue for more stringent privacy standards for cell phone companies. As Matt Blaze, a University of Pennsylvania professor put it, “all of the rules are in a state of enormous uncertainty and flux.”

The Obama administration has maintained that mobile phone users have “no reasonable expectation of privacy.” The administration has argued against more stringent standards for police and the FBI to obtain location data. The FBI also says data collected by cell phones is not necessarily accurate enough to pose much of a threat to your privacy— for instance, in a strip mall, cell phone records may not show whether you are in a coffee shop or the apartment next door.

But that is quickly changing. Blaze said as the number of mobile phones continues to rise, cell phone companies are now installing thousands of small boxes known as microcells in crowded places like parking garages and shopping malls to enable them to provide better service. Microcells, he said, also enable the phone companies to record highly precise location data. While your phone is on, he said, it is constantly recording your location.

T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon and AT&T all refused to disclose how many requests from law enforcement they receive.

Our idea to test whether cellphone companies will give users their own location data came from a German politician who successfully obtained his data last year from Deutsche Telekom. Consumers in Europe have greater protections.

Courtesy: http://www.propublica.org/

 
 

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COMMENTS

doorhandle

4 years ago

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sruthi sree

5 years ago

hi. my name is sreelakshmi. what is your name.

Personal Finance Exclusive
RBI asks urban coop banks to stop levying pre-payment penalty

RBI said urban co-operative banks will not be permitted to charge foreclosure charges or pre-payment penalties on home loans on floating interest rate basis

 

Mumbai: The Reserve Bank of India has asked urban co-operative banks (UCBs) to stop levying penalty on pre- payment of home loans on floating interest rates with immediate effect, reports PTI.

"Though some banks have in the recent past voluntarily abolished pre-payment penalties on floating rate home loans, there is a need to ensure uniformity across the banking system.

"It has, therefore, been decided that UCBs will not be permitted to charge foreclosure charges / pre-payment penalties on home loans on floating interest rate basis, with immediate effect" RBI said in a notification.

Earlier this month, RBI had also asked the commercial banks to stop charging such penalties.

RBI said the removal of foreclosure charges or pre- payment penalty on home loans will lead to reduction in the discrimination between existing and new borrowers and competition among banks will result in finer pricing of the floating rate home loans.

RBI in its monetary policy for 2012-13 had proposed that banks should not be permitted to levy such charges with a view to bring uniformity across the banking system in the home loan segment.

The committee on Customer Services in Banks under M Damodaran had expressed that foreclosure of charges levied by banks on prepayment of home loans was resented upon by home loan borrowers and the banks were hesitant in passing on the benefit of lower interest rates to existing borrowers in a falling interest rate scenario.

"As such, foreclosure charges are seen as a restrictive practice deterring the borrowers from switching over to cheaper available source".

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Bank deposits grew 17.3% in December 2011 quarter

The top hundred centres, arranged according to the size of deposits accounted for 69.4% of the total deposits

 

Mumbai: Bank deposits grew 17.3% to Rs5.81 lakh crore in the quarter ended December 2011 from a year ago, data from RBI showed, reports PTI.

While, credit over the same period increased by 16.1% on the year to Rs4.4 lakh crore, the central bank said in its 'Quarterly Statistics on Deposits and Credit of Scheduled Commercial Banks, December 2011'.

The number of banked centres stood at 35,582, of which 27,964 were single office centres while 70 centres had 100 or more bank offices, RBI said.

The top hundred centres, arranged according to the size of deposits accounted for 69.4% of the total deposits and the top hundred centres arranged according to the size of bank credit accounted for 78.1% of total bank credit.

In December 2010, the corresponding shares of top hundred centres in aggregate deposits and gross bank credit were 68.9% and 78.4%, respectively.

The deposits of the State Bank of India (SBI) and its associates for the quarter were Rs1.68 lakh crore, while credit was Rs1.1 lakh crore. SBI and its associates accounted for 21.9% of the aggregate deposits.

At an all-India level, the credit-deposit (C-D) ratio of the banks as on 30 December 2011 stood at 75.5%.

At the bank group level, the C-D ratio was above the all -India ratio in respect of foreign banks (88.6%), and SBI and its associates (77.5%).

The offices with deposits of Rs10 crore or more accounted for 70.2% of the bank offices, 97.5% in terms of aggregate deposits and 95.2% in total bank credit.

The offices, which extended credit of Rs10 crore or more, accounted for 46.3% in terms of total number of offices.

These offices together accounted for 95.2% of total bank credit whereas their share in aggregate deposits was 79.5%, the data showed.

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