Feeds

Telco caught sending users' phone nos. to Web sites

Call up a Web page on your Sprint PCS cellphone and your number gets sent too

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

3 Big data security analytics techniques

US telco Sprint PCS was exposed this week for breaking the unwritten rules of Net privacy. According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, when users of Sprint's new wireless data service call up a Web site, their cellphone numbers are embedded in the http requests. This allows Web sites to work out the identities of Sprint visitors or at least track individuals' use of their sites. That's against the grain: surfers generally prefer to remain incognito unless, of course, they want to buy something. Sprint's defence is that users should be used to this kind of thing by now, thanks to cookies. But while cookies can be used to track individual Web site visitors, users can set their browsers to prevent their use. And cookies don't provide a phone number a sales rep can use to cold call the cellphone owner. Either that or the user can be spammed using SMS text messages. Sprint spokesman Tom Murphy also told the Chronicle that the inclusion of cellphone numbers in Web page requests is noted in the wireless data service's contract. Fair point, but who reads every word of the small print? And that goes double when said contract is a 6000-word document. However, for once the issue here may not be some clever marketing scheme on Sprint's part. The reason Sprint's wireless data phones send users' cellphone numbers is that the Phone.com browser built into them, which breaks sites' HTML pages down into something that can be viewed on a mobile phone screen, works by sending a unique ID code to the server. The phone number is simply the most convenient unique ID it can use. Possibly, but why not then scramble the number in such a way that the result remains unique but doesn't provide Web sites with a number their representatives can call? That's what Bell Atlantic, which also uses Phone.com's browser, claims to do. And AirTouch said it gets the browser to send out a random number and ignores phone numbers altogether. Clearly sending out phone numbers isn't necessary, so why continue to do so? Sprint didn't say whether it would adopt either the scrambling or random number approach, so we can only assume it wants Web sites to be able to track users of its service. And in any case, it doesn't seem enough of a problem that users will drop their Sprint PCS phones in favour of rival cellular data offerings. The guy who first identified the problem told the Chronicle he would continue to use the service, describing the privacy infringement as an "annoyance". ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray
High Fidelity Pure Audio – is this what your ears have been waiting for?
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Apple DOMINATES the Valley, rakes in more profit than Google, HP, Intel, Cisco COMBINED
Cook & Co. also pay more taxes than those four worthies PLUS eBay and Oracle
It may be ILLEGAL to run Heartbleed health checks – IT lawyer
Do the right thing, earn up to 10 years in clink
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.