The secretarial staff at your mobile phone company may be able to tap into your personal data, but they can’t listen to it.
Mobile phone companies are obliged by law to protect your data and, in most cases, to delete it.
But there’s one loophole: they can only access your data if you explicitly agree.
If you don’t agree, they can access your personal information.
They’re not allowed to do that even if you’re at home.
Privacy experts are warning of a growing problem: mobile phone companies could secretly record conversations for years.
That could be the most devastating surveillance tool the world has ever seen.
Read more The mobile phone industry is in the midst of a new, long-running battle over what it means to be a “consumer” and a “customer”.
That battle is over privacy.
And it’s been raging for years, but in recent months it’s gained momentum as a result of a landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice, which upheld a right to privacy in the EU’s laws.
This is a legal document which states that people have the right to access data held by a telecommunications company and is meant to give them the right, as a consumer, to use the information in the way they want.
It’s an important tool, but it has been abused by companies.
The European Court said that telecoms companies were allowed to intercept people’s calls, texts and emails without their consent because they could use this data to identify the “person(s) by whom the communication is made and the nature of the communication”.
This information is supposed to be anonymised, so that it cannot be used to identify who is talking to whom.
But privacy campaigners are concerned that mobile phone services could be collecting this data, and that the information could be shared with other companies without the consumer’s consent.
The UK government has introduced new legislation to require mobile phone service providers to delete data held for three months, with a requirement to delete the data within two weeks of the request.
However, that law will only apply if the mobile phone provider can prove that it can prove to a court that it had the legal right to store that data for the period.
The companies argue that their data is stored in a way that’s “independent of the content of the communications” and therefore “safe and secure”.
The law allows the data to be used for a number of purposes.
For example, companies can use the data in order to identify individuals who are calling in the UK or to track movements around the UK.
In a 2013 case, the Supreme Court of Canada said that, even though it was not explicitly specified in the law, “it is likely that mobile communications service providers have the capacity to obtain the data for their own personal, non-commercial purposes”.
So it’s up to the court to decide whether that is an acceptable use for data that’s held for the benefit of others, or a “commercial purpose”.
In the case of the European court, that’s what the court was saying.
Mobile internet providers could access the information, which was stored in an encrypted format, without your consent.
So what happens when the court rules?
In the end, the mobile internet providers will have to comply with the law.
In doing so, the data held will be protected from being accessed without your explicit consent.
However that may not be enough.
If the law is upheld, there are a number implications for other aspects of your life, like shopping, where it’s easy to access your phone and find out what you’re doing online.
Privacy campaigners are worried that the law could be used by companies to get the data out of your hands.
“The mobile internet companies have already had a significant impact on people’s privacy,” says Jennifer Lynch, Privacy International’s head of privacy and civil liberties.
“There are a lot of companies now who are looking at the details of how they are using this data and are looking to sell it.
If the law were to be enforced properly, this would give them a huge amount of power to keep the information secret, and then to keep that secret, without giving you the right information to say: ‘I don’t want to be held in the dark’.”