To communicate with someone else through a mobile phone, you must be associated with a certain Internet Service Provider (ISP). An Internet Service Provider is the company that provides you with the necessary infrastructure to communicate with other people using mobile phones and to access the Internet. The ISP is the company that sold the SIM card that you are using on your mobile phone.
As you may already know, many claims exist that Internet Service Providers and other organizations have been collecting data from mobile phone users for various purposes. Collecting data happens with and without the consent of the users, and this data may be used for targeted advertising, monitoring the movement of individuals, and many more purposes. If you have been wondering whether your Internet Service Provider is tracking your location, the truth is that they are always tracking your location. Mobile phones use cell towers to send and receive data from other users. Cell towers are part of the extensive infrastructure built by the Internet Service Provider to provide wireless connectivity to users in a particular location. Whenever you send a text message or call a person via your mobile phone, the phone must connect to a cell tower to contact the other person. All this process means that all data from your wireless mobile phone passes through the cell towers before reaching the intended recipients. Your mobile phone is also constantly sending and receiving signals from the cell towers even when you are not using the phone to call or text another person or accessing the Internet.
Whenever you move from one place to another, your mobile phone connects to the nearest cell tower based on the tower's signal strength. The phone may connect to several cell towers within a short time without your knowledge, as this happens automatically depending on the cell tower with the strongest signal. The cell towers have directional signal receivers that indicate your current location when connected to the tower. For you to start enjoying the services provided by your Internet Service Provider, you must provide personal information such as your national identification number and your full legal name during the SIM card registration process. This information you give out means that whenever your phone connects to a network, the Internet Service Provider knows that it is you since they use the SIM card to identify the user.
Is Your Mobile Phone Really Tracking Your Location?
Using triangulation and other techniques, your Internet Service Provider can tell where you are located at all times as long as your device connects to their cell towers. Triangulation involves estimating the location of a device based on the strength of signals from cell towers. With enhanced technology, Internet Service Providers can even pinpoint your exact location, including the address and specific building, and this is especially true in cities with many cell towers. The service provider keeps most of this information and may share it with government agencies and other third-party companies.
Apart from collecting data about your location, Internet Service Providers can easily collect data about your Internet browsing history, online purchases, and other things you do on the Internet. Internet Service Providers may be aware of such things as:
• Where you are at any given time
• The places you have visited over a given duration of time
• Frequently visited places
• Who you are usually talking to or texting
• The specific time that you visit a particular place
Implications of Mobile Phone Tracking
When your Internet Service Provider knows almost everything about you, this means that you cannot enjoy your privacy. By sharing your information with third parties and the government, your ISP makes your data available to anyone interested in this kind of data. Consequently, mobile phone tracking undermines your right to privacy since your information is being recorded and shared with different entities with and without your consent. Third-party companies can use this information to customize adverts for you since they are aware of the things and places you like. The government can use the data to monitor your moves, especially if they suspect you of something.
The Future of Mobile Phone Tracking
With the ever-changing technology, the ability of your ISP to track your location is likely to become even easier, and consequently, your privacy will be interrupted more. However, policymakers may create some regulations concerning the right to privacy and enact them to regulate the nature of the information that the ISPs can collect and what they are allowed to do with the data. There will also be commercially available mobile phone applications for preventing Internet Service Providers from accessing unnecessary data about you.