The time when the truth was opened only for hairdressers and bartenders has finally passed. It looks like now they are replaced by smartphones.
The next generation devices now know everything about their user – private messages, what they were doing in the morning and where they plan to go in the evening.
That is why advertisers, and Internet giants like Google and Facebook are in constant search for a new, undiscovered ways how to track users’ phones and tablets and suggest them some goods.
Privacy advocates claim that devices’ users are far from realizing how dangerous it can be for them and how vulnerable they become downloading something from the Internet.
This issue has recently become of the most discussed issues and caused heated debates on privacy and government surveillance.
On Wednesday, the National Security Agency has finally announced that it had collected data from cellphone towers in 2010 and 2011 to locate Americans’ cellphones, though it said it never used the information.
“People don’t understand tracking, whether it’s on the browser or mobile device, and don’t have any visibility into the practices going on,” said Jennifer King, who studies privacy at the University of California, Berkeley and has advised the Federal Trade Commission on mobile tracking.
“Even as a tech professional, it’s often hard to disentangle what’s happening,” she added.
“We’re observing your behaviors and connecting your profile to mobile devices,” said Eric Rosenblum, chief operating officer at Drawbridge, one of several start-ups that have figured out how to follow people without cookies.
However, Rosenblum don’t call it tracking. “Tracking is a dirty word,” he explained.
Drawbridge confirms that it has matched about 1.5 billion devices this way, allowing it to deliver mobile ads based on Web sites the person has visited on a computer.
“For advertisers, intimate knowledge of users has long been the promise of mobile phones. But only now are numerous mobile advertising services that most people have never heard of — like Drawbridge, Flurry, Velti and SessionM — exploiting that knowledge, largely based on monitoring the apps we use and the places we go,” writes The New York Times.
“This makes it ever harder for mobile users to escape the gaze of private companies, whether insurance firms or shoemakers.”
Wireless providers admit that they do know even more of users due to reading of special ZIP codes, like how much time this or that Internet fan has spent on mobile apps and which sites he visited during his last visit to the wide world web.
Last December Verizon said that its clients could authorize it to share that information with advertisers in exchange for coupons. AT&T has recently announced its plans to start selling aggregated customer data to marketers, while offering a way to opt out.
According to the U.S. legislation, law doesn’t prohibit the collecting or sharing of data by third parties. For example, in California, app developers are obliged to state what personal information they collect and how they share it. However, that leaves much mystery for ordinary mobile users.