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Posted: 2:18 p.m. Monday, May 2, 2011

Is your smart phone compiling a dossier on you?



Your smart phone may be compiling a dossier of info on you by tracking your location, search history and more -- without your permission.

Most smart phones track things like calling data, messaging activity, search requests and online activities. Many also have sensors that record your movements; sense your proximity to others who also have phones; know what level of light there is where you are; and even take photos/video without your consent. Built-in tools such as a compass, a gyroscope, an accelerometer that senses rotation and direction all help supply data, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Now here's where it really gets scary: What our phones reveal about us not only could potentially be used by marketers, but it can even be used to predict our behavior! Apple and Google have both come under scrutiny for their data harvesting on the iPhone and Android devices, respectively.

I recently read a Wall Street Journal article about a voluntary MIT study where researchers tracked and monitored 60 families in Cambridge, Mass., via their smart phones. The things they found out were simply amazing. "Just by watching where you spend time, I can say a lot about the music you like, the car you drive, your financial risk [and] your risk for diabetes," one researcher told the Journal.

Even things like what we believe politically can be figured out just by analyzing who people are with and what activities our peers do on their phones. Researchers can now build a file on you that reveals what you're about with 93.6% accuracy! But it doesn't even stop there. As the newspaper wrote, "By analyzing changes in movement and communication patterns, researchers could [even] detect flu symptoms before [subjects] themselves realized they were getting sick."

That's why you should have the option to make the info coming from your phone private. Of course, if you wish to make it available in return for money or for free services you'd otherwise have to pay for, that's your call.

But this all points to the need to have -- for lack of a better term -- a Cell Phone Users Privacy Act. You need the right to control what info is captured about you. For now, I've linked over to another Wall Street Journal  article that explains how you can limit mobile tracking.