Verizon to Slap Phones With Location-Tracking Disclaimers

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Sleep well, my precious. I know where you live.

That’s the gist of a new warning sticker that Verizon Wireless plans to slap on its smartphones. Verizon revealed its plans in a letter to Congress, as noted by Forbes. Here’s what the warning label actually says (I may have enjoyed some creative license above):

“This device is capable of determining its (and your) physical, geographical location and can associate this location data with other customer information.”┬áThe label goes on to tell users how they can limit the location information available to others.

Location tracking has been a hot topic over the last couple of weeks, following the revelation that iPhones store a file with a rough approximation of the user’s past whereabouts, accessible and unencrypted by default on a synced PC. Apple says it’ll encrypt this file in a software update, and will stop backing it up to synced PCs.

This issue ballooned into a larger examination of what phone makers are doing with smartphone GPS data. Apple and Google both claim to collect this data, but say that it’s anonymous and not associated with other personal information.

Verizon’s warning label seems like a good-faith effort to keep users informed, but it’s also a clever way for Verizon to keep the attention on phone makers, rather than itself. After all, phone makers cooperate with law enforcement and will turn over your location data when required by court order. Verizon has a team dedicated to handling these requests. Even if you’re not breaking the law, Verizon’s privacy policy allows for usage-based marketing, and wireless carriers are just now realizing the money-making potential of location data.

Odds of seeing any of that on a warning label? Slim to none.

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