New Demands for Disclosure of Smart Phone Data Collection and Sales

For Immediate Release From TURN and CFCF

Tuesday, March 27, San Francisco–Leading consumer advocacy groups TURN and the Consumer Federation of California Foundation today filed demands for updated privacy protections for smart phones with the CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission). Currently, personal information contained in the CPNI (Consumer Proprietary Network Information) assigned to each phone number is governed by standards put in place in 1986.   Surveys show the majority of consumers don’t know that smart phone companies routinely track them and sell their personal data without their affirmative consent.

“Phone companies aren’t leaking your data, they’re eagerly selling it, regardless of whether you’ve agreed.” said TURN executive director Mark Toney. “We think customers should have to opt IN before their data or information is sold. Right now, even customers who are able to navigate the privacy settings on their phones may not realize their CPNI needs to be protected separately, and their location data separately from both of those.    Requiring consent before a customers’ personal information can be sold is much more consistent with California’s constitutional commitment to privacy, and would be more effective in disclosing the sale of data by phone companies that now routinely track customers every seven seconds.”

Rapidly evolving phone technologies provide easy access to the most intimate details of consumers’ lives. Through one small gadget, phone companies track their customers’ movements, calling patterns, purchasing and myriad other actions. The large telecom companies have virtually unfettered access to the decisions, behaviors and habits of the majority of California’s population, leaving them vulnerable to identity theft, social engineering, targeted marketing and upselling.

“Currently, customers don’t have control of their personal information, said Richard Holober of the Consumer Federation of California Foundation. “There is no reason we’re aware of that they can’t be given a choice about the collection, storage, and sale of their data.” Holober said today’s filing requests that the Commission open an investigation into the problem.

With recent rollbacks of Internet privacy protections by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), TURN’s Toney said it is more important than ever for the CPUC to stop these unauthorized sales of their customers’ peronal details. “Cell towers track customers every seven seconds,” he said. “And you pay them for the privilege. Our surveys indicate consumers want a choice, and that for that choice to be meaningful it has to be much easier for them to find and understand.

TURN and CFCF surveyed over 1000 California consumers, and found that:

  • 87% don’t know whether or not they’ve been notified of data sales.
  • 97% are worried about cell phone companies collecting data.
  • The majority want to be asked for permission before their data is sold.

Read the full petition here: ”FINAL P. 18-03-__ Privacy_Joint Petition