Major US cell phone companies track your location and keep records for years

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FORT MYERS, Fla. – The biggest cell phone companies in the U.S. told the FCC that they track their customers locations and keep the records for up to five years.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asked the top 15 cellular providers in the U.S. about the data they track and how long they keep it for.

FCC cell phone providers dataDownload

All of them said they keep some sort of geolocation information about their users.

“I feel like I’m being watched,” said Ramiro Castillo of Fort Myers.

“It’s kind of weird to think about,” Taylor Greenwald added.

It’s no secret that apps like Facebook, Instagram and even TikTok use your data. But the thought of your phone carrier watching your every move?

“My phone itself tracking me? No, not really,” Greenwald said. “I don’t think about it like that.”

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How specific is this data? We asked cyber security expert Dennis Underwood.

“That’s a really, really great question,” Underwood, the CEO of Cyber Crusible, said. “The GPS coordinates can be down to a few inches in some cases.”

According to Underwood, cellular companies use the information to help their consumers.

“If on Main Street there’s a dead spot, they’ll be able to tell that with your cell phone data,” he said.

Many companies to the FCC just that, along with a variety of other reasons, some including selling it.

T-Mobile told the FCC in a letter that they keep Timing Advance Data, or exact locations, for three months. As for less specific location information, known as Cell Site Location Information (CSLI), that can be stored on their servers for up to two years.

At Verizon, they store cell site data for one year.

At AT&T, they keep a record of what CSLI from your phone for up to five years.

“Wow. Yikes. I didn’t realize that,” Greenwald said.

“They can know my every movement, where I’m going, what I’m doing,” added Castillo.

So the big question: Is there a way to stop the tracking?

“Unfortunately no,” Underwood said.

The only way to stop the tracing would be to cut the invisible cord and get rid of your cell phone.

“There’s no way,” Greenwald said. “I really couldn’t live my life without my phone and all the things and I need on it.”

To read all of the letters released by the FCC, click here.

Tags: Cell phoneFCCFort Myerslocation trackertracking

 

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