Don’t let me down

The continuous discussion on the security threats to personal data shows no signs of fading… quite on the contrary. This year we have already heard of Google allegedly intruding personal privacy when shooting photos for Google Earth, and Facebook is yet again battling with accusations on compromising their clients’ privacy when they hunt for more targeted marketing money to the possible detriment of their clients’ privacy. And only until very recently some iPad users in the US had their personal information exposed via a network security flaw. Despite all this, the fact remains that these online service providers are still the ones that provide appealing consumer experiences and services – services that also mobile internet users prefer. Operators’ equivalent services have not proven to be anywhere near the success of Facebooks and the likes.

Nevertheless the privacy issues cannot be overlooked. The Internet giants have (more or less reluctantly) done some changes to their services in order to protect users’ privacy, but as long as the business models are based on ads they will continue to be reluctant to change the rules of the game.

Consumers’ privacy concerns are creating an opportunity for someone else to provide privacy management as a value added service, provide security management services. Recently, examples of privacy management focus can be seen in the emerging portfolio of family life management and communication services (Fambit, Cozi, Family2job etc). These services are based on innovations from social networking and digital calendars bringing features into a family context. We all set different privacy expectations on our family life than on Facebook networking.

Telecom operators are used to obeying rules and regulations, and (at least in theory) they have the possibility to associate themselves with services where privacy issues are properly dealt with. Operators might not be best suited to develop or innovate social media services themselves, but they could instead provide the authorization and authentication services and/or act as trusted distributors for services where privacy management is central. Through careful segmentation, operators could find their strong niche in the privacy area – possibly even beyond their current technology assets.

But to avoid backfire, operators will need to carefully and efficiently avoid even the smallest privacy related pitfalls; like AT&T recently got painfully reminded about. Gaining trust from the consumers is only possible if one has all one’s ducks in a row.

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