Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What does the new "Relevant Mobile Advertising" mean to you?

What does the new "Relevant Mobile Advertising" mean to you as a smartphone user, and what can you do if you disagree with it?

It's been said, if it is free to you, then you are the product. If you are not paying, then the business model of the service or website is likely business to business (B2B). But now, even though you are paying for mobile carrier or Internet Service Provider (ISP) services, you are also the product as well, in a B2B profit model between those companies and others.

Relevant Mobile Advertising allows third party partners and marketers to use a socioeconomic and demographic web of your information to advertise to you on your smartphone. The information belonging to you that they use includes:
  • where you live
  • where you travel to
  • where you shop
  • what websites you visit on your personal computer and phone.
  • email address and metadata in body of your emails
  • smartphone device make & model
  • gender, age, and interest indicators such as:
    • favorite sports team, pet owner, where you dine out, etc.
    • what you've typed into Google search engine on your personal computer and phone.
Cumulatively, this data amounts to your Unique Identifier Header (UIDH). We all have a UIDH which internet advertisers use to for targeted advertising campaigns. Now, the said campaigns have become more elaborate by including your smartphone use and by advertising to you on your mobile devices as well using your UIDH.
Customer Proprietary Network Information Settings (CPNI) are regulated and enforced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). All mobile carriers are supposed to protect our CPNI by law, but selling our UIDH is fair game. Relevant Mobile Advertising allows for a large playing field largely because of how tricky carriers get in their privacy policy disclosures. For example, many companies claim proudly to consumers that they do not share your personal information with third parties. But then they state that any external company that they are working with or doing business with is not a third party. This means you have no cognizance of where your personal information goes. While your CPNI is generally protected from hacking or dissemination, our UIDH is frequently sold away in a very profitable industry. As a result, the web of information described above is likely already in the hands of companies you have never done business.
You have rights to privacy, and the companies you choose to do business with have obligations to protect your personal information and uphold your rights to privacy. Neither large corporations nor the FCC expect the common consumer to know how to exercise their rights nor when those rights are being violated.
What can do about it? You can contact your service provider to opt out of personal data sharing from your mobile device. But this does not prevent companies from receiving, within your UIDH, your location or shopping habits gathered from other methods for instance. Your carrier or ISP privacy policy is publicly available to you, but written using terminology that is not generally understood by the public. If you are curious about the methods in which you’re socioeconomic and demographic web of personal information is gathered or what preventative measures can be taken, contact me.

Parents, do you believe in invading your children’s privacy?

I do, to an extent at least. I recall the motto, “give’em enough rope to hang themselves” because it allows them to learn from their mistakes.  So how about using nanny-cams and key loggers?
A nanny cam is a hidden camera in a common area of your home used to observe your children and babysitter. Some argue that if you even think about installing a nanny cam, you shouldn’t have the babysitter. You’ve got to have trust foremost. And then why not have some inside information also.
A key logger is software that tracks computer usage as precise to sites visited, username and passwords entered, screenshots of what is being viewed, and it logs it in a file accessible remotely or locally. I want to talk about key loggers.
Although it is prohibited to install key logging software on medical, government, or educational computers, it is perfectly legal to use such technology on your own personal laptop or desktop. If you own a law firm for example, as long as your employees receive notification upon logon that they are being monitored, then your firm can use key loggers as well.  Here is what a key logger can do for you:
1.       If your laptop is stolen, you can view the thief’s activity remotely and facilitate with the police report or homeowner’s insurance claim filing.
2.       If you want to keep tabs on your child, you can attain their passwords to their social networking sites, email inboxes, and see what videos they watch and when.  “Keylogger is your litmus test as a caring parent.” (
3.       For security on your personal computer to covertly monitor unauthorized activity for purposes of identifying download locations for virus protection.
When selecting a key logger, free is usually attractive, but there are privacy issues to be aware of for yourself.  Free software often earns its value for the author via either advertisements or data collection. I warn you about the latter regarding some free key logging software. When selecting a key logger, make sure that it does not do the very same thing to you that you intend to use it for. By that, I mean be sure that it does not open ports on your firewall, collect info about your data usage and pass it from your computer through the firewall back to the author of the free software.  You should be the only one accessing your logs, not the owners of the software. ( I find key loggers (and software that does not compromise your privacy in general) useful even if not used for invading your children’s privacy. Maybe it is a question of trust over transparency?
From a legal perspective, should any party other than yourself have any reasonable expectation of data privacy when accessing the internet from your computer? Maybe the next time you borrow a friend’s laptop to conduct a quick check of your bank account balance or respond to an urgent email, you might inquire if they use a key logger.