I read with great interest an article a titled Phone numbers are the new Social Security numbers (please see here ) that highlights how “cellphone numbers have become a primary way for tech companies like Facebook to uniquely identify users and secure accounts, in some ways becoming a proxy for a national ID.”
The article goes on to say that cellphone numbers are becoming Americans’ latest national identification number as Congress mandated that consumers could take their phone number from one provider to another.
This means that consumers can have a de facto “cellphone number for life” system.
Think about how your cell phone number / smartphone is used as a personal computer to do your banking, watch movies, and more including the following:
· Social Media
· Reading news
· Online shopping
· Checking the weather
· Watching videos on YouTube
Now think about how your smartphone is also a potential threat to your personal privacy. While you can install some privacy related apps, you still give up most of your privacy.
Here are some examples of how your personal privacy can be at risk through your smartphone:
· Geotracking – a smartphone is able to locate itself via the integrated GPS chip. While disclosing location data may seem harmless, it is still an invasion of privacy. This data can be used to build a profile on you or a family member, which can subsequently be used for a phishing attack.
· Wi-Fi tracking – as cellular connections often falter indoors, retailers have offered free Wi-Fi to their shoppers. While consumers click to accept the terms of service, an invasion of privacy is taking place as retailers can determine which departments the shoppers have visited and how long they spent there.
· Microphone eavesdropping – every smartphone has a microphone, and it’s another security risk. While the main concern may for many of us may be someone eavesdropping on private conversations, microphones also can be used for data collection.
So let’s conclude with your personal privacy risks related to your cell phone number.
The next time someone asks you for your cellphone number, remember that it is increasingly used to connect to private information maintained by all types of companies including financial institutions, retailers and social networks.
Your cell phone number can also be used to monitor and predict what you view and purchase online or even what you watch on television.
It is important to know that your cell phone number is not regulated and no companies are mandated to keep it private. Studies indicate that half the U.S. population no longer have a landline. Many consumers in the 20-30 year age bracket have never had a landline. Many young consumers have no credit history and therefore no link to their social security number.
On the other hand, most teenagers are equipped with a cell phone number at the average age of thirteen years old. That cell phone number often remains with them for decades providing a detailed digital identification system of information.
This detailed digital identification system of information applies to all of us so be smart with your cell phone number and who you share it with.
By Mark Pribish, VP & ID Theft Practice Leader
To learn more about these threats and how to protect yourself and your family from Identity Theft, you can read my past newsletters at the Merchants Identity Theft Educational Website at www.idtheftedu.com.