Phone tells Nokia your every move

Imagine a mobile phone so smart it can report back to its manufacturer every touch of a button a user executes.

Say hello to the Nokia Smartphone 360 (at least some of them).

(Important update: Have heard from Nokia and they assure me that this program is entirely voluntary and that customers are fully informed as to what is happening. In other words, nothing to see here in terms of a privacy issue, move along.)

Say good-bye to any shred of privacy you may be under the delusion of possessing.

From this Australian press report:

Nokia says the application was developed "to understand how people who have purchased a smartphone actually use it in their daily life...The Nokia Smartphone 360 study was designed to produce real, numerical data on what users are doing with their S60 devices both off- and online. This data details every click made, from feature usage frequency to more general usage patterns."

Nokia says it will use the findings of the study to help improve the user experience, plan future devices and application design, and influence other areas that will contribute to improving its products and services. "The process is completely transparent to the user and the data collected is completely anonymous. All data transfers are automatic with the application uploading the data daily. The data logs of user information are then compressed, encrypted and sent via a packet data or Internet link."

Among the questions the story didn't address: How many phones in what countries carry this "feature?" Is the customer's permission sought? Is there an opt-out mechanism? And, well, I'm just going to go ahead and presume those data transfers do not cost the user a penny, but I suppose it's worth asking. (See answers in third paragraph.)

Seriously, though, what could be the harm of such surveillance? I mean it's not as though we live in a nation and a time where the government can strong-arm telecommunications companies into coughing up what one and all believed to be hands-off personal information.

We've been assured everything is anonymous and secured.

And Nokia does put all of its survey data to meaningful use, such as here where we learn that owners of the 360 in China use their devices most often to make phone calls and send messages, and here where we learn that when it comes to cell phones you are what you carry.

So, you see, there's nothing to worry about and this is important.

(Full disclosure: I own a Nokia phone, but it's a stupid one. Sturdy as all get-out, but stupid.)


Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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