Friday, August 14, 2009

The Palm Pre Gathers Your Data

Customer trust is something that a company works on. However, if it betrays that trust, the company will lose in the end.

This is the predicament where Palm is right now.

According to a Wired article, the Palm Pre sends your GPS location, what web apps you use, and how long you've been using it to Palm HQ everyday. This happens even after you turn off the GPS in your mobile phone. All this was discovered by Joey Hess, a programmer.

Hess says he stumbled on to the privacy problem while trying to find a fix for another issue. “I bought the Touchstone (wireless) charger and found that the screen stays on all the time when the phone is on it,” says Hess. “That was keeping me up at night so I started looking around to find a fix .”

Instead Hess, who works as an embedded systems developer, stumbled into the code that showed how the webOS collects data.

In response, Palm said the following:
“Palm takes privacy very seriously and offers users ways to turn data collecting services on and off,” says Palm in a statement. ”Our privacy policy is like many policies in the industry and includes very detailed language about potential scenarios in which we might use a customer’s information, all toward a goal of offering a great user experience.”
In short, they're doing it so they can figure out how to service the Palm users better. However, it would have been better if Palm has been upfront in telling the user about it rather than the user discovering it running under his nose.

Charles Golvin, an analyst with Forrester Research, said the following about disclosing this deed:
“The question here is the level of granularity when it comes to seeking permission,” says Golvin. ” If the permission on part of the user is overarching, which seems to be the case with the Palm Pre, then it is a rather crude way of doing things.”
So far, Palm hasn't issued any further announcement on this issue. For the meantime, if you're a Palm Pre user, you can turn out the batteries of your device if you don't like the idea of them snooping on you or continue using it if you think it's ok.


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