Who has access to my phone records?
Both your mobile and landline phone phone providers can store and access some details about your calls. They track numbers, received calls, and time and length of calls. Mobile phone providers sometimes record call location, the content of text messages, and voice mail.
What about the government?
In some cases the government is also able to obtain personal phone records. If you become connected to a civil lawsuit or criminal investigation, a search warrant can be granted to subpoena your phone records and the service provider will be forced to turn them over.
The Patriot Act passed in 2001 allowed the NSA and FBI to subpoena phone records and place taps on phone lines without a warrant when terrorism is suspected. It is illegal for the phone company to discuss investigations conducted under the Patriot Act.
Why might some people want to illegally obtain my phone records?
Your phone records reveal a variety of information about you. Whom you call, who calls you, and where you are when you make a call can reveal information about your friends, business relationships, and healthcare providers. This information can be used against you or to take advantage of you, for personal or business reasons. In many cases, targets are public figures like celebrities, politicians, and police officers, but any victim of stalking may also be targeted.
How can people illegally obtain my phone records?
According to a 2008 report by the Congressional Research Service, criminals illegally gain access to phone records in three main ways. First, an employee of your phone company may decide to use his or her access to sell your information to a data broker, someone who profits from personal information. Second, since some phone companies offer their customers the ability to access their own records online, a determined hacker may be able to break into your personal account and obtain your records. Third, in a method that has come to be known as 'pretexting,' a scammer contacts the phone company and pretends to be the owner of the phone line, falsely verifying identity by using personal data they already have.
How can you prevent your phone records from being sold?
These three major cell phone carriers allow you to opt out of having your data sold to third parties for marketing purposes:
- Instructions for AT&T customers
- Instructions for Verizon customerss
- Instructions for Sprint customers
You can use free anti-theft products that track the current location of your phone incase it gets lost or stolen. These tools also allow you to set a PIN or wipe your content remotely. For more details, click the following links:
- Apple's Find My iPhone for iPhones
- F-Secure Anti-Theft for Mobile for Android, Symbian or Windows Mobile phones
- R.I.M.’s BlackBerry Protect
You can also purchase anti-malware products:
- Lookout is an anti-malware tool with backup and restore services including tools for remote lock and wipe. It is available on Android, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile with a free basic version or $30-per-year paid product
- For information on over 500,000 apps, check out the App Genome Project.
Privacy Protection Tip
- Be careful clicking on links in ads or emails when using a mobile device.
- Your unencrypted information can be monitored and gathered over public Wi-Fi. Avoid sensitive transactions on airport and other insecure networks.
- To avoid losing your personal data, lock your phone with a password or a PIN. This prevents people from using your phone if it is stolen. You should also back up the information on your phone to your computer or an online service.