Is our privacy protected by the telcos?

Is our privacy protected by the telcos?

Last night, my brother told me that this guy he barely knew had a grudge against him which started when they were arguing via SMS. Nothing big really until he showed me a text message with his number and our location (name of our baranggay). It’s like the guy’s saying “I know where you live so watch out“.

He tells me this guy has a friend working at a telco and that’s how he got my brother’s location. I told him most of our telcos have that feature that can track you down by just triangulating your cellphone’s signal. I think they had this service for several years now.


What bothered me later on is that this becomes a privacy issue. My brother’s lucky that he’s using a prepaid SIM so no personal information is involved but what if it were a postpaid account? Obviously personal data might also be exposed. That also means they can snoop over phone conversations or dig up all SMS conversations.

My question is — if GPS tracking via cell tower triangulation can just be accessed and used by somebody inside the telco, what protection against invasion of privacy do we have? Are these personal information readily available and accessible to the people working there (which they can just easily share to friends and relatives)?

I believe telcos should do something to protect the personal information we entrusted them especially from unscrupulous employees that handles the day to day operations of their network. This might just be an isolated case but it surely demonstrated how such private data can be easily accessed and exploited.

Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech. You Can follow him on Twitter @abeolandres.

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28 Responses

  1. Connie says:

    Ang alam ko booming business yan sale ng private info. In bulk. Especially to businesses engaged in telemarketing.

  2. yuga says:

    Yep, overheard a couple of politicians in the last elections being offered 1 million phone numbers for SMS blast.

  3. Andre Marcelo-Tanner says:

    im not surprised.

  4. Jay says:

    cool.. if only we could’ve access to their super spy networks we could track commander robot and everyone else.

  5. HAOMARU says:

    Thanks a lot for that info Yuga! Its like the movie enemy of the state – Will Smith, kaya lang kung ganun d2 sa atin parang okay2x na private infos natin! LOL

  6. BigBird says:

    Is our privacy protected by the telcos?

    I doubt it!

  7. Ed says:

    back in 2001 i worked at the seattle, washington headquarters of AT&T Wireless. While there, not only did i know how to triangulate where a person was based on their cell signal – but i could also use any phone and triangulate the nearest cell tower (i forgot how to do this already haha). triangulation is just simple mathematics. this was before gps on phones.. we just used the cell signal.

    also, i know that the customer service side of AT&T obviously had access to all account information. so really, the only thing stopping someone from sharing info would be a mere confidentiality agreement. i know people that looked up addresses for celebrities in the states. however, quality control department is always monitoring actions and calls of their employees… if you look up a file that had nothing to do with your call, you would hear about it if they caught you. while i didnt work in the call center, i heard stories from other workers.. i wonder if the telcos here have strong quality control departments to regulate private information flow.

  8. elmer says:

    if privacy in an issue.. be get ready you 2nd amendment, in case the dude is serious to hurt you

  9. Darren says:

    this is really a serious issue indeed, remind me of the motion film –> “enemy of state” , it’s too horrible for normal people like us. But advanced hackers can do something similar, breaking the computer remotely.

  10. scout says:

    why not file a complaint with the telco? surely they have logs for data access. just test it and see how far it goes.

  11. Adrian says:

    yes. you should file a complaint in the telco and police.

  12. Glenn says:

    I also heard from the Radio that the boyfriend of someone got a copy of his girlfriend’s text messages from a telco. Tsk!

  13. Paul Farol says:

    E-load sellers normally have pieces of paper where customers write down their cellphone numbers.

    It is completely possible that those selling e-load could also be reselling the cellphone numbers they get.

  14. James says:

    guys, why is everyone so engrossed about personal privacy when it comes to telcos and sim cards?

    the minute you were born and registered at the munisipiyo, enrolled in school, sent out resumes to potential employers, you’re not bothered by personal privacy issues??

    triangulating is old news dating back since man sent wireless signals. also, prepaid or postpaid sims can be sniffed no matter what. landlines can be sniffed as well as it’s wireless siblings.

  15. Jhay says:

    Now this is something that Legislative inquiries should look into, for once we’d get some real benefits out of those shenanigans!

  16. TechPinas says:

    That’s just wrong — definitely not to be taken lightly.

  17. ice_hot says:

    i agree with james. in this information age, personal information is very easy to come by. common, by being online makes me vulnerable to info scalpers… but i do also agree that there should be laws in place and enforced for more personal information security.

    the earning student

  18. heyru says:

    I think its a good thing in some way… people may be hesitant to do bad things since they can now be easily tracked down…
    IMO, privacy is living without internet and phones, and it is for big time people and celebrities./

  19. tj18 says:

    My friend’s wife used to get info about his calls from her cousin who worked for Smart. When he found out about it he immediately terminated his subscription and transferred to Globe.
    My worry here is that infos are readily available without the need for court orders. Scary thought.

  20. Huan22 says:

    I’m sure you know that if you remove the batteries from your cellphone they wont be able to triangulate your location. However, constantly removing your batteries from time to time is very troublesome. And you have already stated that this “guy” already know where you live so doing this wouldn’t be much of help.

  21. bhong says:

    selling private info is a booming biz?


    kaya pala lately im receiving unsolicited text messages offering e-loads, loan assistance and part-time jobs.

    i will not be suprise anymore if one day i receive a messages offering viagra and other enlargement pills.

  22. tuberong_tagalog says:

    i wonder if your brother’s textmate is gay. how can two guys have grudge over some text messages if one of them is not gay? hehehe

  23. i understand that the telcos have that capability. (i have been so excited with tech’s capability since ‘enemy of the state’ by will smith, hehehe). this is indeed something that our esteemed legislators should look into.

    but on a very trivial note: could this encounter of your brother be a simple case of some pranksters doing their stuff? i mean, what if this guy really knows your brother, or someone who knows your brother and he/she is just messing with him?

    just thinking out loud, sir.

  24. X says:

    Same thing is happening with scandal videos taken from respective cellphones. Wondering why these private videos and images leaking? A friend of mine working on a Telco company told me that every SMS or MMS messages your sent will eventually land to their servers before relaying them to the recipients. So ingat warning sa lahat na nag-t-take ng privated video using their cellphones.

  25. Anonymouse says:

    Yes, telco companies can extract subscriber info when they want similar to credit card companies.

  26. Cheeta-Eh says:

    This only suggests that people in the telcos are not very honest and does not follow any code of ehtics or may they were never had subjects about Enginnering Ethics and Standards…hmm…ECE grad ako…ang alam may subject kami na ganun eh…pero wala ako matandaan kase yung instructor namin binabasa lang nya sa libro…eh nung college ako, I only study what interests me…pero that subject became boring…because of poor teaching habits…or talagang mababa standards ng mga tao kung tungkol sa mga ganyan

  27. jlindo says:

    I agree with privacy issue. But for those into software development, this might be interesting?

    See Location-Based Services (LBS) API

  28. anonymous says:

    I used to work in a telco company. Guess what? We can view all information coming from the phone like pics and messages including numbers. So be carefull.. ;)

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