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    PC World: The Brave New World of Mobile Phone Privacy

    PC World reports on questions concerning marketing, mobile devices — such as smartphones or tablets — and consumers’ data privacy:

    When Apple sneezes, the world takes interest in ear-nose-throat medicine. So upon learning that their iPhones have been building a bloated file of location data, consumers started wondering if mobile service also means mobile surveillance. Add the unrelated but scary hacking of Sony’s PlayStation and Online Entertainment networks, and suddenly people are thinking about the data they are shedding and who’s picking it up.

    Location is the bonanza of 2011. Companies are chasing hundreds of billions of dollars in potential revenue by trying to learn where consumers are, where they’ve been and even where they may be going. […]

    Is this creepy (they know all about you), or great (marketers offer you stuff you actually want, rather than things you couldn’t care less about)? It depends on what you value, what you understand, and how much control you end up having.

    (Full disclosure: Through my employer, I consult with consumer companies as well as marketing and PR firms on mobile technology and services.)

    Consumers aren’t the only ones suddenly wigging out about privacy. Due to bad press, Congressional hearings and pending legislation, advertisers are, too. […]

    A company called Xtify, for example, provides an online service that allows smartphone applications to keep a running tab of where the phone goes. “This device always knows where it is,” said CEO Josh Rochlin, holding up his cellphone. “This device started the day in New Jersey, made its way to SOHO, lost its way in the subway and then reemerged in DUMBO.”

    What’s that good for? The DailyCandy Stylish Alerts app, for example, uses it to send recommendations for hot spots and events close to where users currently are. Rochlin said that, if DailyCandy chose to, it could also allow the app to send recommendations based on where people have been.

    Is that stalking? Rochlin stressed that the apps using his service can only track location data if the people authorize it. And they track the comings and goings based on a random number assigned to the app using their service. According to him, they actually aren’t able to associate that number with the identity of a real person carrying the cellphone.

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