Cornell prof warns iPhone, iPad users: “We’re selling our privacy”

Revelations that  have led a Cornell University professor to warn mobile device users about what they're sacrificing to use such gadgets.

"It is vitally important to recognize that cellular telephony is a surveillance technology, and that unless we openly discuss this surveillance capability and craft appropriate legal and technological limits to that capability, we may lose some or all of the social benefits of this technology, as well as a significant piece of ourselves," says Stephen Wicker, Cornell professor of electrical and computer engineering. "Most people don't understand that we're selling our privacy to have these devices."

As reported yesterday, two programmers presented details at a conference of an iOS 4.0 database file, usually unencrypted, created on the iPhone (or iPad or touch) and then synced to a user's Mac. This file contains thousands of time-stamped latitude and longitude pairings, apparently based on cell tower triangulation calculations.


Beyond possible security risks, one major concern about  revealing private data through smartphones and other mobile devices is how direct marketers will exploit it. Wicker cites Direct Marketing Association data showing nearly $150 billion spent on direct marketing in 2009, which was converted into a trillion-plus dollars in revenue.

(New efforts in context-based computing are even putting IT staff in the position of exploiting such data, as )