This appears to be a worrying trend whereby mobile devices are playing an increasing role in the erosion of personal privacy. Why does privacy not translate very well for mobile technology?
Starting from easily accessible and recoverable SMS text messages, to mobile apps that secretly send your data to 3rd parties, it would seem that most people are not really aware of, or concerned with, what goes on under the hood when it comes to mobile technology.
This is a topic that’s well explored in a book I recently reviewed for the BCS, entitled My Digital Footprint, which makes a good argument for why multi-capable mobile devices will soon become the primary source of information from and about the user, as opposed to the information hungry device they currently are. However, the problem with this scenario is that unless users are aware / in control of their own Digital Footprints, along with the capability to choose who they wish to manage it on their behalf (perhaps in exchange for some appropriate benefit); they will most certainly be ripped off by unscrupulous third parties.
Interestingly, this would appear to be a reversal of the usual “consumers are stealing our digital content” mantra that we have become accustomed to hearing from the content industry. Clearly, if personal data, identity and privacy really belong to the individual, as in “My Digital Footprint”, then such parties that solicit and use surreptitiously gathered mobile data are themselves guilty of stealing “My digital footprint”. No?
Perhaps the UK’s Digital Economy Act, and other such rules, should also make provision for individuals that wish to pursue mobile operators / advertisers / and other co-beneficiaries of such an illicit activity, for invasion of privacy and theft of their Digital Footprint. Or am I just barking up the wrong tree?
This seems to have become a key talking point of late, and many people are taking a fairly vocal stance about real or perceived invasion of their privacy rights, (as it were some sort of property). However, it appears the time has come to consider the dreaded question of whether privacy will likely become extinct in the next generation or two?
Ok, so it all started with the ever so clumsy handling of Facebook’s now habitual privacy changes, which led to expected uproar over their motives, and the hassle of changing individual settings yet again. This was swiftly followed by the mea culpa and promises to take user concerns into consideration in future. So far, so typical, but what stands out for me is that such repeated cycles of mistake and contrition will slowly erode user sensitivity to privacy over time, not only on Facebook, but also on other social network platforms where it has become the trend setter and de facto leader anyway. Interestingly, newer social networks like Twitter and the infamous Chatroulette do not seem to have quite so many problems over privacy, particularly the latter video based network which if anything appears to be all about sheer, perverse exhibitionism.
In addition, thanks to the brand new Digital Economy Act, it looks like new anti-piracy policies will mandate ISPs to log details of copyright infringers, so that repeat offenders may be sued by rights holders as and when they please. In order to do this, I suspect consumers’ browsing habits and behaviours will need to be analysed (sniffed) and recorded into said log. So I ask again, is there really such a thing as privacy in our brave new online world?
Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.