My GettingLost Blog
Do You Value Your Privacy? Wireless Carriers Don’t

Nokia Map

Apparently, wireless carriers don’t care about your privacy.  California has proposed a law (Senate Bill 1434) that will require government entities, such as law enforcement, to obtain a search warrant before being provided location and other information from your wireless phone. In other words, as to a very basic and simple example, if the police wanted to know where your phone is, they would have to present a warrant that contains “probable cause” (more likely than not) evidence to a Magistrate as to why they want the location of your phone. If the Magistrate agrees, the warrant gets issued. If not, no warrant. To a certain extent, your rights have been protected as the police are not allowed to go straight to a wireless carrier and obtain whatever they want.

Guess who is against the proposed law? That’s right, the wireless carriers. The CTIA – an international trade association for the wireless telecommunications industry representing wireless carriers – has sent a letter to the California Senator who proposed the bill advising that they oppose the proposed law. The reason stated in the letter as to why the CTIA is opposed to the proposed law is that they believe that the law might “create confusion for wireless providers and hamper their response to legitimate law enforcement investigations.” The CTIA also stated that the “definitions within SB 1434 are so overly broadly that they could create confusion for wireless providers attempting to respond to legitimate law enforcement requests.” The CTIA specifically mentions the definition of “location information” in their letter. Well, let’s just see how confusing the definition really is:

(d) “Location information” means information, concerning the location of an electronic device that, in whole or in part, is generated, derived from, or obtained by the operation of an electronic device.

Just in case the CTIA was confused and meant “location information service,” let’s look at that definition as well:

(e) “Location information service” means the provision of a global positioning service or other mapping, locational, or directional information service.

Nope, both look pretty straightforward to me. Maybe they are confused as to what an electronic device is. Let’s take a look at that definition:

(b) “Electronic device” means a device that enables access to, or use of, an electronic communication service, remote computing service, or location information service.

Again, it seems pretty straightforward to me. If the definitions are not confusing, then that leaves two possible conclusions: either they do not care about your privacy or they do not want the current way of how they conduct business to change. Or, maybe it is both? Or, could the answer lie within the other part of the proposed law?

The second part of the proposed law would require the wireless carriers to compile annual reports that basically provide the number of federal and state warrants requesting location services and the total number of disclosures made by the wireless providers. As to this information, the wireless carriers would also have to provide more detailed information such as the number of times they disclosed information (not limited to warrant requests), the number of times they did not disclose any information, the number of times they contested releasing the information, and the number of users whose location information was disclosed. Here is the kicker: the annual reports must be made available to the public on the Internet in a searchable format on or before March 1st of each year. The CTIA claims that this requirement would be “onerous and costly.” They further claim that it is “unclear what useful purpose such reports would serve that if the wireless carriers are forced to provide this information.” Really? Sorry, but I beg to differ. The CTIA knows exactly what purpose this information would serve if they were forced to release it. It is called being accountable to your customers. Let me explain.

If there is not a law that requires a warrant, the police can basically fill out a form from the wireless carrier and obtain your “location information” for no other reason other than they want it. With this information, they can track where you have been, whom you have called, and who has called you. They can obtain this information without you ever knowing. Now throw in the requirement of having to obtain a warrant. The police have to have probable cause and a Magistrate agree that the probable cause is sufficient and justified. Despite whether you ever find out if a warrant was issued, at least there is a layer of protection to your privacy. It is not perfect, but it is a step in the right direction.

As to how this relates to the CTIA, let me ask you this question: if the wireless carriers had to disclose how many times they released their customers “location information,” do you think they would do it as often and without a warrant? It is called accountability. And right now, under the current system as to this information, there is no accountability with the wireless carriers.

It is time to put an end to governmental intrusion into our private information without obtaining a warrant. It is time to hold the wireless carriers accountable for their actions as to our private information. Requiring warrants has to become standard, not only in California, but in every state. Requiring wireless carriers to disclose how often they have released their customers “location information” also has to become standard practice. This is not just a California issue. This is an issue for every state and every individual who owns a wireless device. If you value your privacy, get involved! It is obvious that the wireless carriers could care less.

Verizon Will Start Charging a $2 Single Bill Payment Fee in January

Verizon

On January 15th, 2012, Verizon Wireless will institute a new $2.00 convenience fee to all customers who make single bill payments online or by telephone.  Verizon claims that the fee is to help them to continue to support the single bill payment options.  The fee does not apply to Verizon’s AutoPay Service, payment by electronic check, payments made in the store, online through a bank, or by paper check or money order mailed to Verizon.  The additional fee will be disclosed up-front and throughout the transaction.  Why is it called a “convenience” fee? Yep, you guessed it, because it is convenient for Verizon.  Can you hear me now?  For two dollars, yes I can.

Customers Encouraged to Use Options to Avoid Single Payment Fee That Starts Jan. 15

12/29/2011

Verizon Wireless offers customers numerous free and simple payment options and we encourage customers to use those options. Starting January 15, a new $2 payment convenience fee will be instituted for customers who make single bill payments online or by telephone. There are a couple of exceptions. See below. The fee will help allow us to continue to support these single bill payment options in these channels and is designed to address costs incurred by us for only those customers who choose to make single bill payments in alternate payment channels (online, mobile, telephone). It is waived for those who pay by electronic check or enroll in AutoPay — we encourage customers to use those or other payment options that incur no fees. [See complete list below.] The telephone and online single payment fee, which takes effect January 15, will be disclosed up-front and throughout the transaction.

There are numerous payment options available to our customers where the fee is waived or where no fee applies. They include:

  1. Electronic check online (My Verizon Online, My Verizon Mobile/Handset). Fee waived.
  2. Electronic check via telephone. Fee waived.
  3. Enrollment in AutoPay using credit/debit/ATM card or electronic check; fee does not apply
  4. Online from the customer’s home-banking service provider website; fee does not apply.
  5. Credit/debit/ATM card, electronic check or cash at a Bill Payment Kiosk, Panel or with a representative at a Verizon Wireless Communications Store; fee does not apply.
  6. Use of a Verizon Wireless Gift Card or Verizon Wireless device Rebate Card to pay a bill in-store, online or by telephone; fee does not apply
  7. Paper check or money order mailed to the VZW remit address on customer’s bill; fee does not apply.
Why Sprint and T-Mobile Will Not Get The iPhone 5

iPhone 4

First, let’s get the name straight - is it going to be the iPhone 4S or is it going to be the iPhone 5?  Honestly, does the name of the next iPhone really matter?  Isn’t the only thing that really matters is that Apple is coming out with a new iPhone?  I thought so. Well, I guess for me anyways.  With Apple having a refresh every year since the iPhone was introduced, the only concern for me is when will the iPhone will be coming out and what upgrades will it have. According to all of the rumors, part of this question has been answered - sometime in September.  So, for me, I could care less what the name will be, just as long as Apple keeps improving the iPhone and the iOS every year.

Now, on to the point of this post:  Neither Sprint nor T-Mobile will be getting the iPhone.  Why?  There are basically two very common sense reasons why:

Everyone is well aware of the quality of product that Apple delivers to the consumer.  They are second to none and hence the reason we pay the price we do for Apple products.  As much as Apple is interested in dominating and controlling the market, they have no interest in flooding the market.  It really is as simple as supply and demand.  When the original iPhone came out, it was available at the Apple Store and AT&T.  As the years have progressed, Apple has tested the market in an effort not to flood the market.  They slowly added Best Buy and Wal-Mart.  (For the iPad 2, Apple added Target to the list) And just recently, they added Verizon.  They want to control the supply in order to keep the demand high.  Adding another carrier might flood the market which is what Apple is trying to prevent.  (Can anyone say Android?)  As high in demand that the iPhone is, If Apple really wanted to, they could easily flood the market and have every carrier in the world selling the iPhone.  Of course, this would kill the demand and with the iPhone being on so many carriers, it would cause a fragmentation that would threaten the very existence of the iOS platform. (Again, can anyone say Android) Remember, Apple want to dominate and control the market, not flood it.  As to the mobile phone market, this is something that Google is finally figuring out.

This leads to the second reason: Apple just added Verizon and they did it during a non-refresh period (and there is also this little known device called the iPad2).  As stated above, the demand for the iPhone is high. Apple had to redesign (somewhat) the iPhone 4 in order for it to work on the Verizon network.  I just don’t see Apple doing this again in such a short period of time for Sprint.  Furthermore, please, remind me, how long did it take to add Verizon?  If you ask the Verizon people, forever.  Even though it appears that Apple has pushed the next iPhone to September, unless Apple has been in talks with Sprint for an extended period of time (and if they have, I think it would have been reported by now) I just don’t see Apple adding a third carrier in such a short time period.  Not to mention that by adding Sprint, they not only have to add a third iPhone, they have to add a third iPad 2. (see fragmentation above) I just don’t see that happening.  Not this year anyway.

No, I have not forgotten about T-Mobile.  With AT&T making a bid to buy T-Mobile and the Justice Department looking into the impact that the purchase might have on the market and with the competition (especially if the reports are true that it might take a year for the investigation), there is no way Apple is even going to entertain the idea of adding T-Mobile.  This is a no brainer and I am surprised that the T-Mobile rumor is still circulating.  

Sorry Sprint and T-Mobile customers, I just don’t see you getting the iPhone this year unless Apple starts selling an “unlocked” iPhone.  Now, this is possible as Apple has already set the precedent by selling “unlocked” iPhones in other countries.  But, other than that, sorry.