What Information Does Your Service Provider Collect and Store?


Service providers (like AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile) collect data, but are not forthcoming in detailing exactly what data they collect, the reasons they collect it, and their data retention policies. At the very least, smartphone service providers collect the following:

  • Incoming and outgoing calls: the phone numbers you call, the numbers that you receive calls from, and the duration of the call;
  • Incoming and outgoing text messages: the phone numbers you send texts to and receive texts from;
  • How often you check your e-mail or access the Internet;
  • Your location.

Data retention policies vary among service providers, and certain records are kept longer than others.  For instance, as of September 2011, Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint all differ when it comes to how long they store any combination of cell tower history records, text message detail, text message content, IP session information, IP destination information, and bill copies.

Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about the data your service provider collects, but you may be able to stop the data from being shared with third-parties (e.g. advertisers). Some service providers offer an optout from certain types of advertising.

Either contact your cell phone service provider or look at its privacy policy online to find out what it shares with third parties and whether you can opt out of the sharing.

  • Verizon: Go to www.verizon.com/privacy to read the privacy policy, call 1-866-211-0874, or e-mail privacyoffice@verizon.com. Verizon allows its customers to optout of certain advertising and marketing programs here. Verizon is also a member of the TRUSTe Privacy Seal Program which allows consumers to file privacy complaints.

In addition to the data collected by your smartphone service provider, you should also be aware of the possible privacy issues surrounding the collection or disclosures of:

  • Any photos or video you take on your phone;
  • Details about the text messages and e-mails you send and receive, including the content;
  • Who is calling you, who you are calling, and details about the phone call such as when it was placed and how long it lasted;
  • The contacts you have stored in your phone;
  • Passwords;
  • Financial data;
  • What you store in your phone’s calendar;
  • Your location, age, and gender.


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