Deutsche Telekom tracking graphicIf Big Brother comes for you, you’ve got seven minutes to make yourself scarce after tossing your cell phone in a nearby dumpster. That’s what a German politician learned when he took his telephone carrier to court to find out how often they tracked his position–and learned Deutsche Telekom tracked him 35,000 times in 6 months, even though he never explicitly chose to share his location.

The results make for a compelling interactive graphic, but also seem to vindicate free software guru Richard Stallman’s choice never to carry a cell phone.

It’s Tracking Your Every Move and You May Not Even Know

A favorite pastime of Internet users is to share their location: services like Google Latitude can inform friends when you are nearby; another, Foursquare, has turned reporting these updates into a game.

But as a German Green party politician, Malte Spitz, recently learned, we are already continually being tracked whether we volunteer to be or not. Cellphone companies do not typically divulge how much information they collect, so Mr. Spitz went to court to find out exactly what his cellphone company, Deutsche Telekom, knew about his whereabouts.

The results were astounding. In a six-month period — from Aug 31, 2009, to Feb. 28, 2010, Deutsche Telekom had recorded and saved his longitude and latitude coordinates more than 35,000 times. It traced him from a train on the way to Erlangen at the start through to that last night, when he was home in Berlin.

Mr. Spitz has provided a rare glimpse — an unprecedented one, privacy experts say — of what is being collected as we walk around with our phones. Unlike many online services and Web sites that must send “cookies” to a user’s computer to try to link its traffic to a specific person, cellphone companies simply have to sit back and hit “record.”

As reported in the German magazine Zeit online:

This profile reveals when Spitz walked down the street, when he took a train, when he was in an airplane. It shows where he was in the cities he visited. It shows when he worked and when he slept, when he could be reached by phone and when was unavailable. It shows when he preferred to talk on his phone and when he preferred to send a text message. It shows which beer gardens he liked to visit in his free time. All in all, it reveals an entire life.

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