The Silent Stalker: how to protect yourself from cellular tracking
HORSEHEADS, N.Y. (WENY) -- Many people consider their cellphone as an extension of their body. It's not uncommon to see people glued to their phones out in public. But did you know that your cellphone is constantly tracking you?
"Cellular telepathy has been around since, in the United States, 1983," said Cornell University's engineering and computer engineering professor, Stephen B. Wicker. "That was when the first cellphones were rolled out and they've been Tracking us ever since."
Cellphones periodically send information back to your service provider - to help them determine where you are to help route calls to you. Wicker says cellphone companies and third party apps can use this data to learn more about you as well.
"So if we take all the information that the phone collects, simply for the purpose of routing calls, we can still tell a great deal about you," said Wicker. "For example, we can predict how often you workout, whether you're religious or not and what kind of religion you practice. There's all kinds of things we can find out about you just from this tracking data."
According to Wicker, he says tracking, on the side of the cellphone carrier, won't be a problem to most people. He says the real issue lies with third party apps who can take your information and sell it.
"A lot of these apps have access to GPS," said Wicker. "A lot of these apps collect very specific location data for their own purposes, and they can sell it to third parties. This data can be used to target advertising, which can be manipulative. It can be used for other purposes as well."
But it's not just cellphones that can track you. Anything that has Wi-Fi or GPS functionality can track you as well. In his recent work, Wicker has discovered that e-book readers are also affected.
"I've determined that these e-book readers literally know when you're reading and when you're not, what page you're on, how fast you read, the complexity of your reading material," said Wicker. "They can determine at what level you like to read educationally. They can also tell where you are.>
While this problem may seem like an invasion of privacy, it is preventable.
"It's really a serious problem, but this is something that you can control," said Wicker. "You do have the ability to turn off the app's access to cellular data. It can't collect and send data if your phone won't let it have access to cellular data."
To control this by going into the setting feature on your phone, and turn off location services to any apps you don't want tracking you. Or, when you download a new app - click no when it asks you for permission to share your location. By knowing what apps you're allowing to access your information, the more you'll be able to control the silent stalker.