My tween has her own cell phone and I love it. I leave her at home, if I have to run an errand, knowing she can quickly get a hold of me. I can call her when she is at a friend’s house to check in and arrange a pick up. But in midst of all this joy, I felt a little uneasy. It is great she can call me but what else can she do with a mobile phone. So, I began investigating privacy, kids and mobile phones.
I love to research but will admit I have trouble sitting down and writing. I have a huge file, packed with mobile phone information, but no article. This week, I received some motivation. Two security researchers were poking around in an iPhone and discovered an interesting file. The file contained latitude and longitude data points for the past year. The researchers were able to develop an app that used this data to produce an accurate map of the owner’s travel for the past year.
Originally, the researchers believed this file was unique to iPhones. However, researchers soon discovered the same capabilities in Android phones. As of now, users cannot turn off this feature. Steve Jobs response was , “we don’t track anyone“. Hopefully, Apple reveals a bit more. As Senator Al Franken, in his letter to Steve Jobs, notes, “there is no indication that this file is any different for underage iPhone or iPad users, meaning that the millions of children and teenagers who use iPhone or iPad devices also risk having their location collected and compromised.”
Prompted by these articles, I went searching for information about how to check the privacy settings for my own child’s cell phone. I began by stumbling around in my wireless phone account. In my phone settings, I discovered instructions for turning off the location data as well as a free service for restricting content. Neither of these services were easy to find.
To help parents, the CTIA— the Wireless Association developed a Parental Toolkit . The Toolkit contains links to many of the wireless carriers parental control features, filters and information. Some of these services are free and some have a fee.