The New York Times reports on the massive amount of data that is tied to mobile devices, such as smartphones:
Cellphone companies do not typically divulge how much information they collect, so [German Green party politician Malte] Spitz went to court to find out exactly what his cellphone company, Deutsche Telekom, knew about his whereabouts.
The results were astounding. In a six-month period — from Aug 31, 2009, to Feb. 28, 2010, Deutsche Telekom had recorded and saved his longitude and latitude coordinates more than 35,000 times. It traced him from a train on the way to Erlangen at the start through to that last night, when he was home in Berlin.
Mr. Spitz has provided a rare glimpse — an unprecedented one, privacy experts say — of what is being collected as we walk around with our phones. Unlike many online services and Web sites that must send “cookies” to a user’s computer to try to link its traffic to a specific person, cellphone companies simply have to sit back and hit “record.” […]
Tracking a customer’s whereabouts is part and parcel of what phone companies do for a living. Every seven seconds or so, the phone company of someone with a working cellphone is determining the nearest tower, so as to most efficiently route calls. And for billing reasons, they track where the call is coming from and how long it has lasted. […]
Mr. Spitz, a privacy advocate, decided to be extremely open with his personal information. Late last month, he released all the location information in a publicly accessible Google Document, and worked with Zeit Online, a sister publication of a prominent German newspaper, Die Zeit, to map those coordinates over time.