back to article O2 flogs logs of mobe locations to anyone with a wallet

Telefonica, the owner of the O2 brand, has set up a new division to exploit its massive heap of customer data. This means selling punters' movement patterns and the number of people ambling through a particular spot to anyone with the cash. Telefónica Dynamic Insights will sift through the data to see what's worth selling, …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Trevor Marron

    Goodbye O2

    That's all.

    1. ElNumbre

      Re: Goodbye O2

      If you're an O2 customer, they already have you.

      And as the article says, other telco's do the same thing.

      I do wonder how much information can be gleamed from the logs of a single cell provider. It would be an interesting data set to look at. Do O2 customers behave the same way as Three customers?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Goodbye O2

      Might join you. I don't want my "data" or whereabouts up for sale. Oh, nothing to hide. Just a polite request would have gone a massive way to show some customer service.

      Personally I don't care about their profits as a business, I care about them giving me the time of day when I call to use their services over just fobbing me off for their "profit" margins.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Should be fudged

    How many of us are, if not in range of our own wi-fi, in range of a BT Fon station so that even without GPS, the systems know where we are.

    I reckon that anyone in a town or city where people live, should have that data, "fudged," to a central location so that we can't be traced to our own homes by a third party. That kind of data is spooky, even IF it is stripped out exactly who we are; it doesn't take a genius to match home location against a voters registration list; not these days.

    1. David Ward 1

      Re: Should be fudged

      worse than that the data in question is triangulated form cell masts and nothing to do with GPS or wi-fi locations, and roughly knows where you are ALL of the time that you are in cell range. You are confusing the information the telco collects by law and the information you 'willingly' signed up to provide to the app/OS makers you use. I can't think of an easy way to fudge cell location information..

    2. Gulfie
      Thumb Up

      Re: Should be fudged

      I'd go a step further. Mobile service providers should not be able to use any of the data generated by their subscribers for functions that are not core to delivery of those services - kill off reselling to third parties and re-use for internal marketing at a single stroke.

      Kind of like net neutrality - service providers would have to market to all their customers in the same way unless individuals elect to (a) block all marketing or (b) provide information to allow more appropriate marketing.

  3. Big_Boomer Bronze badge
    Thumb Down

    Not very clever at all

    They will need to be VERY careful not to even inadvertently reveal the persons home or work address. I can't wait for the first case against them for aiding and abetting a crime.

    Why does every cellphone/social networking company think they have the right to sell information about us? Keep it up guys and I will chuck the phone and cancel all my 'Social' network subs. Find another way of making money or be prepared to lose lots of customers.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Not very clever at all

      I will chuck the phone and cancel all my 'Social' network subs. Find another way of making money or be prepared to lose lots of customers.

      You're missing the point. Most teenagers out there now don't care about this kind of tracking and information storage.It's just something they've grown up with and accept as "normal". They are quite happy to click through on T&C agreements without reading them or get the latest "shiney" a bit cheaper if they sign away their rights. They are the workforce of tomorrow and they will be watched from cradle to grave.

      These company's really don't give a shit if a tiny proportion of people bother to think and say "no". Especially when you find not having a mobile phone is harder to live with than having one which tracks you. For various definitions of "mobile phone", ie any device which uses wireless comms.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm sorry but I don't see what right they have to sell data on my movements - anonymised or otherwise. That data is MINE, they need it only to run the network and I don't see where they get the right to further enrich themselves in this parasitic manner - on top of the monthly amount they get from me that allegedly pays for my service. I don't recall my tariff being priced at £xx plus all the data on your movements we can sell.

    I'm paying for o2 and its corporate buddies to spy on me in the hopes that they can further pick my pockets?

    When will advertisers get the message that we are not all facebook sheeple that will respond to their lies? Advertisers have no reason to stalk me. My finances are finite and allocated. The one thing I am interested in is my privacy and it is not for sale by my network or anyone else. Anonymous is only a word... and function creep is inevitable. For this reason I don't do facebook or any of the other Social media drivel

    Words fail me. My o2 time nears its end

    1. Matt W

      Re: Parasites

      To answer your questions

      1. Like or it not, O2 et al have every right to do whatever they like provided it is covered by the small print in their contract with you - did you read your contract in full before signing up?

      2. This is a corporation - they have a responsibility to their shareholders to investigate all revenue making opportunities. Also, generating additional revenue will provide income to fund network improvements, more competitive tariffs or better handset offers. How did you choose your mobile operator? Would you be willing to pay more, have less choice of handset and poorer coverage if the operator offered greater privacy in return? Unfortunately that isn't how the market currently works so operators need to compete.

      3. The article doesn't state that the operators are selling data about individuals, or even at individual IMEIs/IMSIs/MSISDNs - it implies these are aggregated measures of traffic at particular points on the network. On this basis, the entire privacy argument seems rather mute.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Parasites

        "On this basis, the entire privacy argument seems rather mute."

        ITYM "moot". Thank goodness that you also didn't throw in a quick "per say" or "walla" in the same style, too.

  5. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    It won't be anonymised for long..

    All you need is correlation with some other database, say, credit card purchases, and you have associated a movement pattern with an identity.

    This is effectovely what Google does as wll - it just keeps gathering data and at some point you'll make a mistake and log in somewhere - presto, the unallocated chain of events now has your name as a probable owner.

    This is risk 2: such mosaic matching results in PROBABLE matches, not absolute ones - just look at how the TSA treats a blacklist to get an idea of what happens when people don't understand the difference. This is also what annoys me in CSI fingerprint matches where a partial thumb somehow only ever produces one single hit..

    No, no and no. It is time we get laws that allow us to tell the phone companies to either not track, or consider this data personal.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    need a crack down..

    Is in't about time that they cracked down on anonymised data? if it has any kind of identifier it is not anonymous. that guy on the moon July 69.. yeah anonymous bloke.

    that guy driving that car with the NZ plate MAFIA.. yeah that anonymous bloke.

    that bloke who always answers the phone that has my number...yeah that anonymous bloke.

    the bloke at my house all of last night... yeah that anonymous bloke.

    none of the above are anonymous no matter how much you pretend they are.

  7. Dan Paul

    What is your data worth? Way more than you think, time to get paid for it.

    Friend of mine who was involved in the data collection and management of loyalty cards for Point of Sale systems told me that one persons data could be worth as much as $1,000 per year.

    Auto traffic studies that are used to sell billboard advertising are quite expensive, tens of thousands.

    People counting technology for a single store can range into the tens of thousands of dollars, let alone a mall or other larger venue.

    One would think that real time foot traffic studies would be even more valuable than auto traffic because it would involve patterns of individuals that could affect many real estate variables, not just how many people but every stop they made. If that data were correlated with the purchases the subject made or the time they spent in front of particular displays or ad's it could be worth much much more.

    No marketing person could avoid the allure of that data.

    That info should be enough to pay for your phone & data service for a year at the very least!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What is your data worth? Way more than you think, time to get paid for it.

      Hell yeah, if they're going to sell my tracking data to some 3rd party and I have no say over the issue then I should at least get some free shit for it, like unlimited mobile internet access :)

      1. Gulfie

        Re: What is your data worth? Way more than you think, time to get paid for it.

        Or... switch off your mobile when you go into Westfield / The Bull Ring / Shopping Centre of your choice.

        Unless of course you have an iPhone. Turning it off doesn't work ;-)

    2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: What is your data worth? Way more than you think, time to get paid for it.

      Friend of mine who was involved in the data collection and management of loyalty cards for Point of Sale systems told me that one persons data could be worth as much as $1,000 per year.

      Interesting, got anything to back that up? I would *LOVE* to know how much is paid for the data of one person that places like Google collect, but AFAIK there isn't a study out there that puts a decent figure on it. Probably because it would nuke the "free" myth of services such as Farcebook and Google..

    3. Jedit
      Big Brother

      "one persons data could be worth as much as $1,000 per year"

      Sold to multiple clients, obviously. I sure as hell don't spend $1000 a year in on-spec purchases, though, so anyone purchasing my data is gambling on bad odds even if they only paid $50.

  8. heyrick Silver badge

    Accurate figures?

    "wildly divergent numbers for those attending a protest, while the network operators have long been sitting on surprisingly accurate figures."

    This is assuming every protester has a phone. A way to throw it off would be simple - turn phones off, or carry more than one. Then the statistic is just as accurate as the protester's overestimation or the police's underestimation.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Accurate figures?

      And absolutely no one carries 2, right?

  9. Alex Gollner

    What if these data recorded artistic expression?

    If we defined all our activities as performance art, we could use copyright laws to prevent any copying of any aspect of our performance without our permission. That would include the places I choose to go, the places where I live and work, the products I buy...

    The specific combination of items I've entered into every registration form and every database record would then be my copyright...

    1. Steven Roper

      You're forgetting

      that copyright is only for Big Business, not the plebs like you or me. Contrast the efforts by Big Media to remove right of first sale doctrine (currently under way in the USA) and establish century-long copyright term extensions, with the efforts by the same Big Media companies to strip copyright protections for photographers, so Big News networks can legally rip off their pictures as "orphan works" simply because somebody posted them on a website somewhere without credit.

      Copyright isn't for us slaves, only for the masters. So "copyrighting" our movements wouldn't work. The only law is, you will give, give, give and they will take, take, take.

  10. Grom_uk
    Black Helicopters

    Time for.... track your MP. com

    If it was us tracking MPs or CEOs of companies the law would be down on us like a ton of bricks.

    Guess who I saw going into a knocking shop last week.......

    Sorry "anonymised" data.......

    Guess who's town hall office I saw someone leave, only to go into a knocking shop last week.......

    Parasitic data mining must be regulated, to avoid invasion of privacy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Time for.... track your MP. com

      Though of course, experienced electronic fraudsters like Grant Shapps MP would use a spare phone when off whoring, just like he used an alias when stealing and selling content and search engine spamming..


    2. Brian Morrison

      Re: Time for.... track your MP. com

      Ronan Dunne, CEO of O2, is on Twitter, I dare say he must be getting some interesting comments about now...

  11. TechnicalBen Silver badge


  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This isn't bad at all, at least when put into perspective. Far more happens to your data in the UK Government, for example the Longitudinal Studies (Health data getting linked to Census, Vital stats, and other data sources), fair enough they don't sell off the data but the "research" that occurs is rather laughable for the information they can get access to. How many people honestly knows what happens to the data the UK government has access to?

    Not to mention there will (have) to be disclosure agreements, anonymising data isn't just changing your name there will be tons of checks this data will have to go through so that the person with the long but obvious route cannot be ID'd.

  13. xyz

    I gave up carrying my mobile last year and just leave it in the house

    Anyone wants me they can leave a voice mail and I call them back when I can be arsed. My generic Android pad thing does all the other gubbins a smart phone does anywayy without the hassle of people wanting to talk to me

    1. emmanuel goldstein
      Big Brother

      Re: I gave up carrying my mobile last year and just leave it in the house

      good work.

      precisely because of this kind of bullshit snooping i gave up my mobile completely 3 months ago. it does take some heavy-duty adjusting to, but is very liberating.

      fuck you, orange.

  14. Lallabalalla
    Thumb Up

    Great news

    Now I can find out where the hell I've been all month.

    I'm also saving up for iPhones for the kids so I can find out where they are any time I like.

    What, me worry?

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Great news

      Now I can find out where the hell I've been all month.

      A chav's phone, coming to a store near you. I like it..

      "I spent the whole month in a drunken stupor, but I still know where I have been, thanks to O2 pub-crawl monitor. Discover the places you lost your wallet, dignity and later most of your stomach. Relive those moments of embarrassment. Discover where you actually lived before your wife changed the locks."

      This could be one hell of a comical ad :)

  15. Slap

    Function creep

    Anonymised now, but what about the future.

    2 words - function creep. It's always happened, it always will.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Function creep

      Weren't there wild rumours of a Facebook mobile, a way back? That'd be the perfect way to shaft folks.. Ugh.

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Function creep

      It won't be function creep, it'll be a USB stick containing lists of "anonymous data" such as phone IMEI, cell ID, phone location (according to cells), and long lists of such. It might not actually name somebody, but I'd bet there would be enough info to track a person's phone for however long the logging runs for. This, and all it entails, would be:

      * Left somewhere on a train during rush hour (later picked up, examined, and posted to pastebin).

      * Accessible to anybody from a supposedly secure site by the use of a retardedly simple SQL injection.

      * Emailed to random members of the public "by accident".

      * Stolen and sold to highest outside bidders by disgruntled employees.

      * Oops, our computer crashed so last night's cell data flog-off contained actual identifying information. Lessons will be learned, yada yada.

      Pick your favourite most-likely reason, or hit Reply if you can think of others.

      But note, the simplest way not to get shafted is simply for this stuff to be heavily legislated so it is kept for the law-enforcement purpose that it is supposed to be, and not a plaything for whatever wanky idea some dick in a suit devises to turn barrel loads of mostly-scrap data into currency symbols....

  16. Lars Silver badge


    I am optimistic, but perhaps the EU should have a look at this from our rights to be anonymous even if we use a cellphone.

  17. Oldfogey
    Black Helicopters


    I picked my mobile up for cash at a car boot.

    The PAYG sim was already in it.

    I top up for cash at the supermarket.

    The phone is rarely actually switched on, and never at home.

    Difficult to see how "they" could know anything about me.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Untraceable?

      Just make sure "they" don't actually cotton on to it. I believe using a phone registered to somebody else is a form of fraud; and there is some weird regulation (UK? EU?) that using a phone that is not correctly registered to the current owner is a crime under some anti-terrorism thing. Sorry it is vague, I wasn't paying attention when my eyes passed over the info as I have a contract phone, so they kinda have to know which numpty pays the bill...

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019