By: Katie Austin
How many of you have a smart phone? How confident are you that the information on your phone is secure from spying eyes?
How many of you are aware of the new USA Freedom Act? Did you know that it impacts how the government collects cell phone data?
Knowledge is power. I will share with you what I have learned and what you can do to protect the data on your cell phone.
Out with the old (USA Patriot Act), in with the new (USA Freedom Act).
Here’s a YouTube video that explains the Patriot Act and the newly created Freedom Act with a little bit of humor. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7V392FqqPE
The USA Patriot Act was signed into law just six weeks after the 9/11 attacks. Congress quickly and almost unanimously approved the Patriot Act with the goal of protecting American lives, with a priority of security over privacy. As summarized by Caitlin Pierce, the Patriot Act “significantly expanded the government’s surveillance reach, broadening its authority to collect personal records, tap phones, monitor internet activity, and spy on religious and political organizations, often without any evidence of wrongdoing.” The USA Freedom Act was enacted into law on June 2, 2015 with the intent to place restrictions and oversight on the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance powers.
So how does this change impact the government’s ability to collect cell phone data?
After a six-month transition period, the USA Freedom Act will shift the burden of keeping phone records to the phone companies. The NSA will be required to get permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to get targeted information from a phone company storing the records. The phone metadata is what will be retrieved and contains basic phone number information, not the content of the calls or names of callers.
What can we do to protect our information?
Cell phones these days are mini-computers that are used to send email, browse the internet and just about everything a desktop computer can do. With everything at our finger tips and readily available, we need to take measures to ensure our phone is secure and the information stored on it is protected.
Here are a few steps I found that you can take to make it harder to get your personal information while you Candy Crush:
1. Put your phone into airplane mode while playing games. Most games don’t need the Internet connection to run, but their ad networks do.
2. Don’t post on social media accounts while connected to cellular data networks. Wait until you’re connected to your secure, password-protected home or workplace Wi-Fi network. Better yet, wait until you get to your desktop computer or laptop.
3. Turn off Wi-Fi, GPS and geolocation on your phone. These can be used quickly to pinpoint your location. Don’t use them until you absolutely need them. You may have to go into each application’s settings to turn off geolocation so start with those that are capable of taking photos.
4. Install an application called AppNotifier. It will email you when an application is downloaded and installed on your computer. Your best defense is being aware of what is on your phone. I love this app as I know when something is installed or updated on my phone!
Find out more by visiting the FCC Smartphone Checker at the link below. There you will learn smartphone-specific ways to protect your phone.
We all have a choice. I choose privacy over convenience. It’s our information and we should be able to choose when and how to share it.