Smartphone tracking: should we be surprised?

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Smartphone tracking: should we be surprised?

The news about smartphone tracking raises a series of questions, once again, about the tug of war between technology and personal privacy

First it was the news that the iPhone stores your location details in a dedicated database that can be transmitted back to Apple and then it was revealed that Android phones also collect location data and transmit it hourly to Google.

As the fallout from the phone tracking revelations continue (representatives from Apple and Google both reportedly went before Congress recently to speak about the issue), what are the implications?

The news about smartphone tracking doesn’t really come as a surprise, although it raises a series of questions, once again, about the tug of war between technology that’s increasingly becoming localised and ubiquitous and the need to preserve personal movements and information.

Should we be surprised? No, not really. These stories are typically couched as shock, horror and scandal, but it’s part of a trend that gaining convenience, portability and interconnectedness means making inroads into our privacy, control and anonymity in the wireless world.

Is it lawful? Perhaps not, but it’s not yet clear as there are different sets of privacy laws in the US and Australia. Investigator is waiting for a specific response from the office of the privacy commissioner about the legalities; but the national privacy principles do protect people from personal information being collected in a way this is unreasonably intrusive; and personal information collected must be in line with the functions of the organisation.

Is it ethical? The answer to that question probably depends on your point of view. If you see it as the big brother technology giant trying to monitor, aggregate and mine ever more of our personal information and lives, then the answer is no. If you see it as a technology company looking to gather critical information about users habits, wireless internet trends and so on, then the answer may be a cautious yes.

What’s your view?Do you think it’s necessary to trade off anonymity and privacy for wireless everywhere?

 

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