World News: Mobile phone companies push privacy boundaries

World News:  Mobile phone companies push privacy boundaries

According to a recent article published by The Times Online, mobile phone companies could start eavesdropping on your conversations and intercepting your text messages so they can distribute information about you to advertisers.

Companies such as Motorola are reported to have developed the technology to scan messages, which, combined with location information from GPS-enabled phones, will tell them not only where you are but what you’re talking about as well.

With your consent, naturally. And we all know how well that works.

Advertisers trade customer lists and information, and you don’t need to be a brain surgeon to prove it. Just spell your name in different ways to the next few advertisers and then see where else that spelling crops up.

So we can expect the privacy brigade to get its knickers in a knot about this mobile phone technology and the potential for it to be abused.

The Times Online article says that Motorola would install software that searches for keywords such as “hungry” and “food”, which would then trigger an incoming advertisement for a local restaurant.

Now that one’s open to misinterpretation. One economically descriptive insult via text message could result in a deluge of incoming ads for adult toy shops and hotels that rent out rooms by the hour.

Kenneth Keller, Motorola’s chief marketing officer, says the technology, which is still under development, is currently based on searching text messages, but it could also be applied to voice calls.

Brilliant. Mid-conversation about after-work drinks plans, you’ll be interrupted by a stream of beeps because all the pubs within driving distance are bombarding you with text messages.

Will the attraction of cheaper calls in return for opting in for location- and context-based ads lure enough customers to sign up?

The industry seems to think so.

Berg Insight estimates that mobile channels will account for 0.8% of the total digital advertising expenditure worldwide in 2007, and this is expected to reach 7.5% by 2012, by which time the digital advertising market will have more than doubled in size.

According to Informa Telecoms & Media, mobile ad spend is expected to hit $11.35 billion by 2011.

And Nokia has climbed on the ad wagon with its recent agreement to acquire global mobile ad company, Enpocket.

To read the full article in The Times Online, click here

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