Protecting The Cellphone User’s Right To Hide
Marketers are expecting a windfall through ads, coupons, and other come-ons sent wirelessly to cell phones by leveraging technology that tracks a caller’s location, and at the moment there is little cell phone users can do to stop this, apart from turning off their location-tracking features.
Wireless carriers are required by law to make cell phone users’ locations traceable when they make 911 calls: Carriers that track callers via the Global Positioning System must be able to locate approximately one-third of wireless callers within 160 feet, while those that use land-based triangulation must find callers within 320 feet.
Bell Labs researchers have created software known as Privacy-Conscious Personalization designed to give cell phone users’ greater control over the disclosure of their location.
Wireless callers would use the software to choose their preferences on when they want their location revealed, either through their cell phone’s screen or on the carrier’s Web site; such preferences could depend on who is requesting the location data, what time of day it is, or the callers’ activities.
Requests for location are filtered through these preferences, and are permitted or blocked accordingly. The job of managing preferences for millions of cell phone users while their calls are being connected could be too much for a wireless network, but Bell Labs’ Rick Hull says the software lets cell phone companies build “preference palettes” designed for different user types.
“As users get accustomed to it, service providers will have the flexibility to add some sophistication over time,” he explains.
Using the software’s features requires a wireless carrier with the technology embedded into its network, and Hull says customers should be able to avail themselves of the technology by next year.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the New York Times (02/05/04) P. E5; Selingo, Jeffrey.