Smartphone GPS Craziness: Sprint Sends Smartphone Owners To Wrong Address For Device Retrieval.

One of the security recommendations in this era of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is to turn on device tracking on your smartphone or tablet, assuming you have the option.  This way, if you lose the device, or if it gets stolen, there is a more than a fighting chance that you’ll be able to retrieve it. (I should note, though, that without the proper smartphone data security like AlertBoot Mobile Security, it’s probable that the “temporary owner” of a lost smartphone will browse its contents).

But, it turns out that in certain situations, a lost device’s GPS can lead people to the wrong address time and time again.

Sprint Sends Device Owners to the Wrong Address

Las Vegas is an exciting town.  There’s the lights, the nightlife, the clubs, and the people who’ve eaten up the slogan, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”  They make things so exciting that sometimes the police get involved.

Then there is local resident Wayne Dobson.  According to, Dobson’s life is so exciting he can’t get regular sleep during the weekends.  Why?  He gets woken up at odd hours by people looking to retrieve their phone.  They bang on his door and tell him that Dobson has their phone.  The smartphone tracking app tells them so.  See?

As it turns out Dobson doesn’t have their phone.  Some glitch in Sprint’s network is sending phone trackers to the wrong destination.  Furthermore, police responding to 911 calls are sometimes misdirected to Dobson’s home.

Experts are puzzled by the events and Sprint has vowed to figure out what’s going on.  Apparently, this has also happened to some woman in New Orleans.  She ended up suing Sprint.

Tracking vs. Protecting

The loss of a tablet or a smartphone is generally deemed more disastrous than the loss of a laptop computer because the phone tends to store more personal information.  Emails can be found in both phones and laptops.  That’s also true for phone contacts.  But, SMS messages, who you called recently and how long you talked to them, everyday pictures (now that the smartphone has supplanted the digital camera), and other data generally resides on the phone.  And how many of us back up their phones, at least often enough for it to matter?

Hence, one might be excused for wanting to retrieve a missing device from the hands of some stranger.  On the other hand, tracking phones is not without its problems.  You’ve got outlier incidents like the above but also the more run-of-the-mill incidents, such as when a device’s SIM card is swapped out; the device is returned to factory settings; or the device is in a place where GPS or Wi-Fi signals aren’t reachable.

Plus, just because you can retrieve your phone doesn’t mean that you’ve not suffered an information security breach.  Without the proper passcode in place or without the activation of mobile encryption software, who’s to say someone won’t steal your data while you’re waiting for the device to be back in your possession?

When you think about it, tracking is not about data security.  It’s about asset security.  If you want to secure data, you have to opt for something that will protect your data from the moment a device is lost, like encryption.

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