Scientists Have Found a Way to Prevent Mobile Phones From Sharing Personal Information

A team of researchers from the University of Southern California’s Vuterbi School of Engineering and Princeton University has developed a method to stop mobile phones from revealing information about the user’s location. Researchers have used existing cell networks to prevent a privacy breach.

Major networks sell your personal information without your consent

The researchers have shown that the privacy issue in modern phones is caused by how they receive service. The phones have to reveal unique identifiers to cell towers that are owned by large network providers for them to get service. This process leads to unregulated data collection industries that sell your location to a third party without consent.

The team developed the “Pretty Good Phone Privacy” service, which decouples your authentication and billing information from phone connectivity. It achieves this by making the personal identifiers that go to cell towers anonymous without disrupting the hardware that allows cell networks to work effectively.

According to Barath Raghavan, a study co-author and an assistant professor in computer science, most people have accepted that companies can use their phones to track them mainly because they have found no way to stop it. This new study changes that as it will enable mobile phone users to have privacy while maintaining connectivity strength using their new software.

The new system cuts off direct communication between a cell phone and the cell tower

Researchers add that networks need to know where you are to identify you as a customer and send you services. For this reason, they can track your location and know your identity even when your GPS is turned off. Major operators and data brokers try to take advantage of this weakness by stealing users’ information without their consent. Unfortunately, there are no laws in the U.S to prevent this.

Another study co-author, Paul Schmitt, says that there is no good reason personal identifiers are needed for users to access the network. Because of this, the new system tries to cut off the direct connection between a cell phone tower and the user. It instead sends an anonymous token to the tower through a virtual operator.

The team has also started Invisv, a start-up that has tested the system in a lab setup. They have found that the system can deal with millions of mobile phones on one server.

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