THE CANADIAN PRESS – There are unintended consequences of having our smart phones and other wireless devices automatically collect data on our whereabouts, warns Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian.
Privacy should be designed into cellphones and Wi-Fi systems to prevent the automatic collection and storage of personal data by the devices, which only continue to grow in popularity, Cavoukian said in a special report.
Most people had no idea their location and other data were being recorded and compiled until Apple recently said its iPhone 4 tracked and stored phone location data on the user’s home computers, without the user’s knowledge, she said.
“We’re getting a lot more interest in the notion of embedding privacy as a default feature in the design of technology as they’re being designed, so it’s not an afterthought,” Cavoukian said in an interview. “Whenever you have incidents like this with Apple, it’s a wake-up call for the rest of the industry that they’ve got to get serious about this.”
There is a lot of concern about the capability of mobile systems to track our lives, without our knowledge, concludes Cavoukian’s report, “Wi-Fi Positioning Systems: Beware of Unintended Consequences,” which was jointly written with Microsoft’s former chief architect of identity, Kim Cameron.
“It is no wonder that smart phone researchers state that today’s smart phone operating systems frequently fail to provide users with adequate control over and visibility into how third-party applications use their private data,” concludes the report.
The problem with the data tracking involves the unique address of a mobile user’s device, known as media access control — or MAC — address, which is collected or recorded without the user’s consent.