Mobile Data Privacy

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With so many different mobile phone contracts and pre-pay packages available how do you know you are getting the best deal? One new scheme from Blyk is challenging the traditional format and is now offering completely free phone services to its customers. Instead of a monetary fee, the price users pay in return for free minutes and texts is agreeing to receive a daily quota of targeted adverts.

As part of the deal customers must agree to receive personalised advertisements matched to information that is provided when the account is set up. Customers must provide information on spending habits, planned online purchases and either passport or driving licence information. The offer is also only available to 16-24 year olds which clearly outlines Blyks target demographic.

This deal comes after recent articles have been released detailing how mobile phone companies are readdressing network policies, moving increasingly toward a system that enables them to better monitor messages and voice exchanges in order to compile accurate user information which in turn can be sold to advertisers.

Although any plans are in the very early stages, mobile networks have suggested that any technology used to monitor customer preferences could include an opt out clause, however no guarantees have been made. The Data Protection Act does currently restrict the use of personal data by mobile phone companies and they cannot pass on information to a third party without the consent of that person. However there are also ethical issues with such a technology, and the potential for this technology to be abused is a big worry for many.

Motorola are already said to have developed technology that can scan text messages for details on customer location and activity. This technology could enable keywords such as ‘Food’ or ‘Hungry’ to be scanned in text messages and as a result an advert for a local restaurant, in relation to the mobiles emitted GPS data, could be served to the users handset.

We can already see how exsisting models serving personalised adverts as a result of archieved user data have proved lucrative in the area of internet search, and many social networks are also devising such a model. As a result of recent developments in mobile search, information collected from mobile users would essentially create a gold mine for network providers, and as the web experience greatly improves on the mobile over the coming year this data could be harvested.

Some estimates predict the market for mobile advertising will exceed £5.5 billion by 2011, and companies willing to part with information on user trends would certainly receive a large slice of that pie.

With these estimates I’m guessing Blyk may be the first, buy will certainly not be the only network to offer the delivery of adverts to the mobile handsets of customers in return for cheaper or even free services. For now I’ll keep my personal data off limits and pay my monthly contract fee.


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