How much do wireless carriers keep your location data?

How much do wireless carriers keep your location data?

It’s not uncommon that apps can work properly when you choose to grant location permission. Though those programs claim that they collect your location data in accordance with their privacy polices and you can remove the settings at any time, don’t forget wirless carriers. They can locate a mobile phone and keep location data. But have you ever wondered how much do wireless carries keep your location data and how long do they keep the data? Never mind, you can find the answers in this guide.

How much do wireless carriers keep your location data?

Before you get started with certain applications or programs, they will ask for location permission to work properly. They determine the phone’s location from GPS, nearby WiFi signals and other coordinates. Both Android and iOS let you revoke the background location access with simple steps, so the app can only access your location when it’s running on the foreground. That said, your location data can be available through other ways.

Your wirless carrier will establish your phone loctaion during the process of providing it with service from one transmitter to the next. It doesn’t even need help from iOS or Android. Wirless providers like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile retain data but do not specific what data they exactly collect, the reason they collect it and their data retention policies. Data collected by phone providers are as follows:

  • Location information
  • Sent and received text messages: the phone numbers you send and receive texts from
  • Incoming and outgoing calls: the phone numbers you call, the numbers you receive calls from, and call duration
  • How often you access the internet or check your email

How long do wireless carriers keep the data?

The four major nationwide phone service carriers keep record of location, call log, text message or internet session for periods. They provide record retention policies, offering users a range of privacy options. Data retention policies vary among carries and certain data are kept longer or shorter than others. The following is a overview about subscribers of the big carrier’s policies, with various lengths of time for how long they retain data.

  • AT&T: This nationwide carrier keeps record of call and text messages for between 5 to 7 years, while it does not retain text message content. It stores cell tower records since July 2008 and internet session information and estinations for up to 72 hours.
  • Verizon : As the US’s largest cell service provider, it stores calls details and cell tower for one year. Text message details are retained for up to one year, actual text message content between 3 to 5 days. Also, internet session information are stored for up to a year while web sites visited are retained for up to 90 days.
  • T-Mobile: It holds call record and text messages for 5 years but it does not retain text message content. Moreover, it keeps neither internet session nor destination information.
  • Sprint: The retentation peroid of call log and cell tower record is 18 months. Particularly, it doesn’t retain text message content. Internet session and destination information are kept for up to 60 days.

Also, there are plenty of providers that lease network space from the four major operators. For instance, Credo Mobile uses space on Sprint’s network and keeps records three years.

Phone carriers are still selling your location data

You also should be aware that cell service providers are facing fines for selling user’s location data available to third parties without their consent. These wireless carries were accused of the privacy viloations last year and they promise to stop selling location data, but the cell phone companies allegedly continued the practice and were filed with a class-action lawasuit in 2019.

Take a specific example, Verizon said it would stop sharing data with relevant firms, but it was still selling location data to anyone who wanted to pay, putting users at risk from hackers, stalkers or worse. Also, AT&T claims it would protect user data and stop Securus access to user’s real-time location data. It was considered as a move to prevent third-parties accessing user location data. Now, AT&T seem to break the promise, saying it will only permit the location sharing in limited cases, including when required by law.

Closing thoughts

Now you can have a basic understanding of how much and how long wireless carriers keep the location data. They keep record of those data for periods without advertising it on the websites, like location info, text messages, call log and internet session. Cell service providers claim that they stop sharing real-time location data with third-parties, but it should be noted that some of them are still selling your data.

Carl L. Hirsch is a writer, editor, and journalist. She has been a staff writer in various US-based periodicals for five years. But then she decided to dedicate her life to traveling and freelance writing.

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