Locating a Cell Phone with a Cell Phone Ping: Does it Fall Under Compliance?

In our previous post, we took a look at an overview of cell phone pinging and why locating a cell phone, by a cell phone ping, without consent isn’t compliant. There are ways that you can obtain location information that are fully compliant. We’re not referring to the exceptions for emergencies and law enforcement—but rather to service providers who do have permission to access carrier information.

The legislation surrounding the consumer’s cell phone location information all hinges on whether or not the consumer has granted permission for their cell phone to be located. If permission is granted, then it’s OK. What constitutes permission?

Cell Phone Owner Consent

The first step is to have the consent of the cell phone owner. Notice must be given to the cell phone owner that location information is being obtained–prior to obtaining it. The form of consent can be implicit, as when the application requires location information – such as a mapping program or a “Where’s my Device” app. The consent can be a click consent – whereby the cell phone owner or mobile user checks a box to agree to terms and conditions; within the app, from a website, or a response to an email or text message. You could also obtain consent verbally, if the cell phone owner authorizes the release of their cell phone location information to a customer service representative – but this must be documented and recorded. There is also the ‘Opt-In’consent. There are two types of opt-in consent—single and double.

Single opt-in

If the cell phone location information is a one-time locate, then single opt-in consent is used.

Here is the single opt-in flow all carriers require:

  • The application wants to locate a person’s cell phone:
  • A text is sent to the cell phone: “ would like to obtain your cell phone location. To agree reply with YES 1234 or NO.”
  • If the cell phone owner replies “yes 1234”, the application obtains their cell phone location.
  • If they reply “no,” location information is not obtained.

Immediately after obtaining the cell phone location information, a second text message is sent and the cell phone is deregistered on the network (opted out): “has obtained your cell phone location. You’re now opted out. Terms & Conditions.”

Double opt-in

Here’s the flow that all carriers require for double opt-in consent:

  • An application wants to obtain the cell phone location information:
  • A text message is sent to the cell phone: “would like to obtain your cell phone location. To agree, reply with YES 1234 or NO.”
  • If the cell phone owner replies “yes 1234,” a second text message is sent (double opt-in): “your cell phone location has been obtained. To CANCEL/STOP reply with cancel/stop. Terms & Conditions.”
  • If they reply “no,” location information is not obtained.

The Terms and Conditions must include the sponsors name, who has access to the cell phone location information, data retention and privacy policies.

If the cell phone location information is ongoing, a reminder text must be sent each 30 days. It must also allow the cell phone owner to opt-out, stop, or cancel the location information.

Here is the reminder message format all carriers require:
“REMINDER. Your cell phone location information is being obtained. To Cancel/Stop reply CANCEL/STOP. Terms & Conditions. ”

Note that anytime a person’s cell phone location is to be obtained, the cell phone owner must be given a chance to agree/disagree, before their location information is obtained. The carriers simply won’t approve anything else.

Ignorance is not a defense

All the carriers follow the same guidelines and rules. A cell phone pinging service can’t be online any other way. Well it can, but it hasn’t been approved by the carriers. Our advice would be to avoid any such service like the plague.

Let’s say the reader is considering the use of a cell phone pinging service. Great. But if the cell phone pinging service doesn’t follow what I’ve laid out here, it most likely hasn’t been approved by the carriers. The reader would be using an unauthorized service, putting themselves and their clients at risk.

Ignorance is not a defense. If the reader has any question as to whether or not the cell phone pinging service is compliant, all they have to do is use the service themselves. If it doesn’t follow the flow here, the cell phone location information is most likely being obtained by coercion or a pretext, therefore in violation of Federal and State laws.

Cell Phone Ping Compliance

Compliant location information apps include social networks, mapping programs, programs that offer coupons, weather programs, browsers, and camera or photography apps.

Other compliant location information apps could be those that obtain location information in order to route an incoming call to the appropriate office or representative, or perhaps a check-in type of application for a mobile fleet of trucks, trailers or other service related vehicles. Another compliant example would be to route a delivery or courier service person to the consumer.

Compliant apps adhere to strict rules and regulations—if not, the carriers wouldn’t approve them. The consumer grants the app their location information and can opt-out anytime. Also. The sponsors of these services cannot, by law, sell location information.

Developers are constantly working on creative and compliant uses of location information for their markets. In our case, we’re working on adding location information to BellesLink.

Belles Camp is an approved location information developer, we know the rules and regulations. I’d be happy to answer any questions or address any concerns you have regarding location information.

*We’re not lawyers, we’re certainly not your lawyer. Nothing here or in this or other posts on this topic should be interpreted as legal advice or a commentary on how others do business.


Read our Cell Phone Pinging Series:

  1. A Cell Phone Ping: What’s The Law and What’s The Lie?
  2. Cell Phone Pinging for Locating a Cell Phone: What is Non-Compliance?
  3. Locating a Cell Phone with Cell Phone Pinging: Does it Fall Under Compliance?
  4. Cell Phone Pinging – Cell Phone Privacy and Applicable laws