Mobile Privacy - How Much Do We Give Up Voluntarily? - InformationWeek
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7/17/2009
01:55 PM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
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Mobile Privacy - How Much Do We Give Up Voluntarily?

There are a ton of cool features and services available for smartphones today. Location based services is one of the most interesting, but in doing so, you are giving the service provider an alarming amount of information about you whether you know it or not.

There are a ton of cool features and services available for smartphones today. Location based services is one of the most interesting, but in doing so, you are giving the service provider an alarming amount of information about you whether you know it or not.Google Latitude is a good example. Whether your phone has GPS on it or Latitude just approximates your location via cell tower triangulation, you are not only telling your friends where you are at, but Google as well. We've always talked about big brother watching over us and look for ways to protect ourselves from it, then we turn around and whisper in his ear where we are and potentially what we are doing. I am not sure if that means we are easily giving up this info, or we place an inordinate amount of trust in Google.

People post on Twitter and Facebook all of the time with where they are, sometimes with GPS coordinates or a URL to a map of their location, and what they are doing, complete with pictures. We've gone from a society that values privacy to exhibitionists.

The implications can be large, or just annoying. I just checked Google's privacy settings for my Latitude account. Basically, I can either share or hide my location. That's it. I can't tell Google to not use my location for its own purposes, which I am sure it is doing.

Yahoo recently updated their privacy policy allowing users to opt out of advertising on mobile based location services. What they have done seems pretty comprehensive. You can opt out of ads and when you do this on one device, it works for all of your signed in devices. Ads can be particularly bad for privacy. I have no idea how much info is being sent back to the advertiser nor how much security they are putting on their database to protect your data. Or worse, who else are they selling it to?

This is a problem that didn't exist ten years ago. Now, people cannot sign up fast enough for these services. They are insanely convenient, but at what cost? You didn't think free meant "free" did you?

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