Palm’s location-based advertising patent likely sheds light on background location reporting in webOS

By on September 1, 2009 at 10:58 AM.

Palm’s location-based advertising patent likely sheds light on background location reporting in webOS

Remember last month when a developer revealed some hidden functionality in webOS that periodically reports a user’s location back to Palm? Well as it turns out, the reasoning behind the Big Brother-esque move may be even worse than you think. Drum roll please… Location-based advertising. We’ve uncovered a patent application filed by Palm in November of last year that could end up being one of the worst things to happen to webOS since its birth. As described within the application itself, the patent “provides a method and system thereof that can be used to more effectively target advertisements and other services to users of wireless communication devices.” More from the patent description:

Based upon the location data from the appointment and the location of device 310 (or other alternative location provided by the user), processor 340 may then provide advertisement data (step 386), for example, along the driving route between the location of the appointment and the current location of device 310 within a predetermined distance of the location of the appointment and/or the current location of device 310, and so on.

In other words, the system will keep tabs on your location in order to serve ads that will theoretically get you to spend money on the spot. Why not stop off for a coffee in this Starbucks? How about a tasty Angus Third Pounder from the McDonald’s down the block? But wait, it gets worse. Palm’s concept goes even further to pull appointment information out of your calendar in order to serve contextual ads based on your destination location in addition to your current location. While this concept is pretty brilliant, it’s also remarkably invasive and frankly, a bit frightening. Is the future of mobile advertising a gross invasion of our privacy?

Thanks, Darnell!

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Palm Pre owners: Big Brother is watching

By on August 12, 2009 at 2:19 PM.

Palm Pre owners: Big Brother is watching

Ruh roh. It looks like Palm may be pulling a Big Brother on Pre owners without their knowledge — until now, anyway. This morning, developer Joey Hess publicly examined a portion of webOS code that reports information back to Palm in order to determine exactly what info the manufacturer is retrieving behind the scenes. What he uncovered, loosely put, is pretty uncool. Pre handsets report at least the following info back to Palm daily:

  • Your location
  • Which apps you’ve used and for how long
  • Your app crash logs
  • Which apps you have installed

Now, this discovery raises all kinds of issues surrounding ethics, disclosure, privacy and a host of other touchy subjects. As with all privacy policies, Palm’s is BS sketchy shady unclear vague broad enough to likely cover such invasions of privacy. Hess does detail a relatively easy way to disable the transfer of personal data back to Palm’s servers but it requires Linux. More convenient methods of disabling this “feature” will likely surface in the coming days but the question as to why Palm needs this personal data remains. So, Pre users, are you guys cool with this?

[Via PreCentral]

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