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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Friday, November 18, 2016

Cell Phone Number Tracking

Increasingly, social media, lenders, and even retailers are obtaining cell phone numbers as a way to track individual consumers. A 10-digit cell phone number is becoming a number, like a social security number, that stays with you for life.

Unlike a social security number, however, there are no federal or state privacy laws preventing its dissemination. So the numbers are disseminated; used by companies to track consumers' conduct such as what shows we watch, what products we purchase, and even what sites we visit on the Internet.

Particularly for Millennials, there are two sets of numbers that follow them through their lives: their cell phone number and their social security number. Most Millennials have never set-up and maintained a land-line telephone account.

The combination of a cell phone number and name is more valuable to marketers than a social security number. This is because cell phones are now connected to so many databases and because individuals almost always have their cell phone with them; in their hands and operational.

Just as with your social security number, cell phone numbers are increasingly used to facilitate identity theft. On the other hand, your cell number is also used for fraud prevention. Many banks are using customers' cell phones to text a security code when the customer needs to change their password. Also, some credit card companies and other payment services such as PayPal are using cell phones to text temporary PINs to digitally confirm the purchaser's identity and prevent fraud.

Some customers are downloading innovative apps on their cell phones that all the company to track all of their daily activity: web sites visited, calls made, contacts stored etc, in order to assess them as a credit risk and potentially extend a loan. Not conventional, but convenient. For someone with a poor credit rating, they forego privacy for the convenience of a small loan.

Take care when providing your cell phone number to a company. When you do, you give up a significant slice of your privacy.

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