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Mobile tech's bright future has a dark side

Tom Kaneshige | Nov. 14, 2013
Experts at the Open Mobile Summit discuss the future of mobility, some have a rosy view, some a darker perspective. Perhaps mobile innovation can make life easier, but what will it cost you in terms of privacy?

When It Comes To Data Privacy, Talk Is Cheap
All the panelists launched into company lines that they would never do anything unseemly with customer data. American Express's Happ says big retailer relationships would fall apart if American Express mishandled customer transaction data. Happ's words sparked a confrontation rarely seen in a panel discussion; MCX's Roberts took exception with Happ's claims.

Roberts says he had worked for many years at Southwest Airlines, where customers paid for tickets with American Express cards. American Express, he says, used that transactional data to send apparently competitive offers to Southwest Airlines customers. While American Express's policy is to not leverage transactional customer data, the customer in this case is the merchant and does not apply to the end customer.

"Make sure to read the fine print," Roberts says.

In truth, companies already have swaths of customer data, know your buying habits and preferences, and have a pretty good handle on where you are, especially when you trip a geofence, where you're going and what you're going to do next based on historical patterns. The dark side of mobile technology and mobile payments is that it will light the fuse to even more consumer data collection.

This future most of all shares similarities with Blade Runner. In the movie, Deckard is an android — or "replicant," in Blade Runner parlance — but doesn't know it yet. He has waking dreams of a unicorn. At the end, a police officer leaves a unicorn origami at Deckard's apartment; the police already know everything about him, even his most personal thoughts.

It's a big price to pay for the convenience of having the lights come on.


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