Carrier IQ: Enemy or Impetus to Solve the Privacy Dilemma?

Snapshot from video of Carrier IQ tracking with smartphone and logging screenI know we’ve talked about privacy here before, but a lot has been going on this past week, so I thought maybe we should talk about it again.

Privacy certainly isn’t a new issue (for an informative introduction, read Privacy Control of Growing Importance to User Experience), but it’s an important one. And things seem to be getting worse rather than better.

That could be a good thing.

For a while, we’ve been consoled by the premise that much of our information out there is treated as anonymous data. But now, we’re learning that anonymous doesn’t really mean what we thought it meant.

Anonymous data usually includes general details from your browsing history and location data. No personal identifying information (such as birth date or contact info) is attached to it. For example, apps that you have on your smart phone or tablet use location data to forecast traffic congestion, offer up weather forecasts, suggest restaurants, and more.

The problem is that the trail of data you leave on the Web while shopping, browsing, and interacting on social networks can easily be examined and traced to your real identity.

So, in the wrong hands this could put you at risk.

Last week, news about Carrier IQ tracking of all activity on many smartphones spread like wildfire in gusty Santa Ana winds. Wiretapping suits have been filed. Many people are upset and yelling for changes.

This, again, is a good thing.

Carrier IQ may or may not be the scandal it seems. (Read why not here.) In my opinion, however, Carrier IQ is not the issue we should be talking about.

It’s time we all talk about solutions.

Crowdsourcing just may be the answer. Obviously, with the prolific use of laptops, tablets and smartphones, immense data tracking and recording is taking place. It’s the nature of the technology.

Also obvious is the need to step up protection of every user’s privacy. We don’t want to give up our devices, but we don’t want to completely sacrifice our privacy either.

Who better to ask about possible solutions than the users themselves?

What information are we willing to sacrifice (as a whole)? And what details need to be kept private and secure at all costs? How do we keep convenient features that rely on tracking but still feel secure?

The next great innovative company will be the one that solves these privacy problems. With the advances in technology today, we know it can be done. We just need all the companies that profit from tracking and sharing this data to develop the will to solve it.

Your voice on this issue is the key to stirring up that will. So, please, use it to keep telling phone carriers, manufacturers, retailers, government and more what you want. At the very least, ask them what data they track and how the information is used and shared.

The conversation is already started. It’s now up to you, me and all of us to keep it rolling.