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Tech secrets: 21 things 'they' don't want you to know

Dan Tynan | April 1, 2010
Eavesdropping Webcams, spying ISPs, toxic PCs, and more: dangers the industry is hiding, and what you can do about them

Even then, there's some information that Facebook simply won't let you withhold, including your name, profile photo, friends, fan pages, and geographic location, plus the networks you belong to. So think twice before you start harvesting virtual crops or install "Lover of the Day."

Your Geolocation Data Is Not Private

An army of marketers is looking to build profiles based on your habits and to sell you location-based services.

Telecommunications carriers maintain what is known as customer proprietary network information (CPNI), which can include details about your rate plans, who you called, and your location. By law, carriers can't sell your CPNI without your permission, but how they obtain your approval can be quite sneaky. Often they'll simply send an e-mail or letter giving you the opportunity to opt out; if you don't respond, they're free to sell your CPNI to whomever they please.

That doesn't necessarily mean they do so right now. But as more phones become location aware and geocentric services become more widely used, the temptation may be overwhelming. The market for location data is expected to reach nearly $13 billion by 2014, according to Juniper Research.

A company that has your geographic data could sell it to stores and restaurants in your area or offer to pass sales promotions along to you on those businesses' behalf. The classic example: You're walking by a store when your phone receives a text message offering a 20 percent discount--but only if you go in and shop right now. Or you might get an e-mail saying, "We saw that you passed by our store the other day, and we want you to know that we're having a sale." As yet such scenarios are merely theoretical, but they're highly creepy just the same.

The Fix: At this writing, Congress is holding hearings about geolocation data and privacy, which could result in new consumer safeguards (but don't hold your breath). In the meantime, you can tell your carrier not to share your CPNI: Read the privacy policy on your provider's Website and follow the steps required for opting out.

When not polishing his tin-foil hat, Contributing Editor Dan Tynan tends his geek-humor empire at eSarcasm. Follow him on Twitter: @Tynan_on_tech. 


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