Nicholas Drost

Senior Manager - Business Operations, Information Technology

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How long should cell phone companies be able to store your personal data?

After viewing Malte Spitz's "Your phone company is watching" I wanted to get a better understanding of how long some of the major cell phone carriers store private information regarding personal cell phone use. I found an article online which references one of the Justice Department's internal memos talking about data retention periods among the nation's leading cell phone providers and how they differ. (http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/threatlevel/2011/09/retentionpolicy.pdf). My question is why is this not standard, especially across the major carriers and why should average/law abiding citizens worry about their personal cell phone privacy? I have read several articles around cell phone privacy issues and still do not understand what these carriers want exactly with all this data.

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    Feb 8 2013: Usually cell phone companies are not free in their decision if and for how long they store the data of their clients, as the government of each country is defining it.

    A German politician, Malte Spitz, was suing Deutsche Telekom, a phone company, to hand out his personal cell-phone data and finally got them of a timespan of 6 month, which is the legal timeframe in Germany for such data to be kept.

    In cooperation with 'Die Zeit', a German newspaper, he then combined all this position-data to create a six month profile of his personal life to be published, so that people can see, what this data is able to reveal about them:

    You may be interested to click the little red 'play' button right below the map, to start a time related animation of his data. To speed it up, just move the slider to the right or to the left to slower it down again. If you zoom in (left slider on the map), it goes down to street level allocation:

    http://www.zeit.de/datenschutz/malte-spitz-data-retention


    So 'why should average/law abiding citizens worry about their personal cell phone privacy?'

    Because nobody should be allowed to reconstruct your movements, your phone and SMS activity and your Internet accesses! Our freedom to go were we like to go includes the freedom to do this in privacy, which means, that NO ONE was able to reconstruct it! Because otherwise there is no freedom anymore!

    This data could be seen as an 'electronic ankle bracelet' with one exception, that it is 'worn' by our personal decision to have a cell-phone...
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    Feb 8 2013: Usually cell phone companies are not free in their decision if and for how long they store the data of their clients, as the government of each country is defining it.

    A German politician, Malte Spitz, was suing Deutsche Telekom, a phone company, to hand out his personal cell-phone data and finally got them of a timespan of 6 month, which is the legal timeframe in Germany for such data to be kept.

    In cooperation with 'Die Zeit', a German newspaper, he then combined all this position-data to create a six month profile of his personal life to be published, so that people can see, what this data is able to reveal.

    You may be interested to click the little red 'play' button right below the map, to start a time related animation of his data. To speed it up, just move the slider to the right or to the left to slower it down again:

    http://www.zeit.de/datenschutz/malte-spitz-data-retention


    So 'why should average/law abiding citizens worry about their personal cell phone privacy?'

    Because nobody should be allowed to reconstruct your movements, your phone and SMS activity and your Internet accesses! Our freedom to go were we like to go includes the freedom to do this in privacy, which means, that no one was able to reconstruct it! Because otherwise there is no freedom anymore!