Are smartphones and privacy mutually exclusive? In other words, can you use a smartphone and still maintain your anonymity. Well that probably depends on at least two different things - the degree to which you use location-based services and social networking but also the amount of personal information that the particular phone records and transmits.
The really comes down to a matter of choice, which should be yours to decide how much personal information you share, and also control, which means that you should know what information is collected and how it is managed.
The Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, told Investigator that the Privacy Act provides this choice and control because it requires “organisations to explain a number of things to individuals before collecting their personal information, including who is collecting the information, why it is being collected, and who this kind of information may usually be disclosed to.”
When it comes to smartphones, Australians are covered by the National Privacy Principles if an individual’s identity can be reasonably ascertained from the location details stored on the handset. In this case, information must be collected lawfully and fairly, where collection is necessary for a business function or activity.
Timothy Pilgrim said that “organisations also need to explain to the individual concerned why their personal information is being collected and what will usually happen to that kind of information after collection.”
At the heart of this issue relating to smartphones and privacy is the question of transmitting the information from the handset to the manufacturer. It seems that in and of itself, this isn’t unlawful, but “it would need to explain a number of matters to the individual concerned before, or at the time of collection. These matters include that the manufacturer is seeking to collect this information, what will usually happen to this kind of information after collection and any consequences if the individual does not provide the information,” said Timothy Pilgrim.
The privacy commissioner says including this information in the terms and conditions might be reasonable, but it may not accessible. “If this information is in danger of getting lost in lengthy terms and conditions and is unlikely to be reviewed and understood, it would be preferable for an organisation to provide this information shortly before collection and seek the individual’s consent.”
That’s all very well and good, but it’s not as though the smartphones have any alerts or warnings that this is happening and this is where users start to feel it’s hidden. It might be outlined in the terms and conditions, but does anyone read these or even know where they are?
If you complain to the organisation but it provides an unnecessary response in the first instance, then you can complain to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner through its website at www.oaic.gov.au.
Add your comment below.