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Protecting privacy when using cell phones

Cellular phones are no longer a luxury for most individuals. In fact, cell phone-only households have surpassed landline-only households in the United States. With so many people using mobile phones, privacy may be a concern.

The technical sophistication of cell phones is increasing by leaps and bounds, but it's important to consider how this technology will impact users' privacy moving forward. Here are some things to consider.

* Because most cell phones now have Web browsing features, advertisers who track Web site visits can obtain cell phone user information. Therefore, targeted advertising can be expected. However, the Federal Trade Commission notes companies must give individuals the option to opt out of targeted marketing. What's more, companies collecting data about cell phone users through the Web sites they visit or information they fill out on forms must protect that data and only keep it as long as is necessary to fulfill a legitimate business need.

* Receiving telemarketing calls via your cell phone is still unlikely, especially through an automated telephone service. However, users must avoid sharing their cell phone numbers with any companies who intend to sell that information to a telemarketing company.

Most telemarketing calls made to cell phones are illegal. According to the FTC, it is unlawful for any person to make any call (other than a call made for emergency purposes or made with express prior consent) using any automatic telephone dialing system or any artificial or prerecorded voice message to any telephone number assigned to a paging service, mobile telephone service or any service for which the called party is charged for the call. There also is no 411 directory for cell phone numbers. Therefore, the only people who will be in possession of any cell phone number are those with whom users share their number.

* Cell phones are highly advanced devices, many with tracking options included. An individual's location can be pinpointed in real time through GPS when the phone is on. Previously, phone records would have to be searched to determine a user's location. Users who don't want to be tracked should keep their phones turned off.

* Cell phones are increasingly being used as the primary method of personal communication - even phones issued by employers for business purposes. There is lively debate regarding the legality of bosses being able to review phone records or text message logs of employees, regardless of whether the call was made for business or personal reasons. Cell phone records may be searchable by police without a warrant in some areas. Keep this in mind when using the phone.

* Keep in mind that one of the easiest ways to invade a cell phone user's privacy is to simply overhear their conversation or view the information on the phone. Cell phone users often fail to take their location in mind when making calls. In public places it is very easy to overhear personal remarks or sensitive data. Therefore, users who must share personal information should only do so over a secure landline.

Protecting privacy while on a mobile phone is growing increasingly difficult. This convenient method of communication should be used gingerly and with caution in mind




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