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

Zach Epstein
September 1st, 2009 at 10:58 AM

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!


Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than 15 years, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications in the US and around the world. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.

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