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Would You Trade Privacy for a Free Phone?

Apr 17 2011, 1:01pm CDT | by , in News | Mobile Phones

Would You Trade Privacy for a Free Phone?
 
 

As opposed trading a $200 phone for your privacy.

On the surface, this sounds like a preposterous question. Who in their right mind would give up the intimate details of their personal life for a gadget?

The answer, of course, is "all of us". Or at least everyone with a smartphone, which I assume is about 80% of you reading right now. Your iPhone or Droid X or whatever wouldn't be nearly as useful if it wasn't constantly poring over your most intimate data. Your search history, your app usage habits, your voice itself. All of this information is collected, dissected and used to improve your user experience.

And part of that 'improved' user experience includes more targeted advertising. Take the recent revelation that certain apps (like 'Color') use your phone's microphone to record ambient sound data about your surroundings. This sounds creepy as hell- and also as inevitable as the tides.

This whole digital age- with its mobile Internet connections and social networking sites and spotty information security, represents an untold bonanza for advertisers. And your smartphone is the key to it all.

The age of cold-calling and blind mass marketing is past. The future lies in ads that are perfectly targeted to the person receiving them. We've seen the first grasps at this already. Google combs through your Gmail account come up with ads ads aimed at your present interests and needs. And smartphones are always on, all the time. They experience almost every facet of your life.

Marketers desperately want to know what your phone knows. And, if they can't get that data through subterfuge, they're willing to pay. Which may be why we'll soon see 'free' smartphones subsidized through ads and constantly gathering info about where you are and what you're doing. Most of you probably feel a little ill at the thought, but there are millions who won't look twice at the EULA once they hear the word 'free'.

Another interesting possibility would be an app that pays you, in credit to your account or through some sort of in-game store, in exchange for being allowed access to some 'private' data.

It seems far-fetched, but we're already there. Marketers are hard at work trying to harvest your life for ad metrics right now. Currently, they use shady apps and hidden spyware. But as our culture grows more used to a world without privacy, the ad-men will get bolder. We're not far from the day where stalking becomes a feature.

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