They’re watching you . . .

You know that very cool, does-everything but-bathe-you SmartPhone you carry around? I’ll bet that somewhere deep in the recesses of your mind you were wondering whether it was tracking you, leaving a trail.

It’s worse: Your SmartPhone is reporting everything (EVERYTHING!) you do back to your wireless phone carrier.

Wait, it gets better worse still. Even when you use your SmartPhone over Wi-Fi, every move you make is being shared with your carrier. Every keystroke. Every site you visit. EVERYTHING.

Please understand who’s writing this.

I used on-line banking before pretty much anyone, when all I heard from everyone I extolled its virtues to was how it can’t be safe. I don’t worry about my credit card information being stolen on-line (much). I was putting businesses’ accounting data into computers twenty-five years ago, and had to comfort clients who liked the idea but were afraid of the problems.

In short, I’m not a tin-foil hat, paranoia, “the-government-is-watching-me!!!” kind of guy. I can’t be.

But this is scary.

A company called CarrierIQ is selling software to pretty much all the major wireless phone carriers that logs everything you do on your SmartPhone. Both CarrierIQ and the phone companies say that the purpose of the software is to give those companies more information with which they can improve their very complex services. They aren’t spying on you, honest!

But there’s no way to opt out of the software running. And again, even the claim that the only reason CarrierIQ is running is to improve the wireless service you’re getting is obliterated by the fact that things you do on WiFi, rather than over the carrier networks are also reported back to the carriers.

And don’t forget: carriers are subpoenaed for information by the government all the time. If they know you’ve done something and the government comes calling, they have to share.

Again, I’m not paranoid, and don’t want you to be. And in a world where so much of our information is constantly flying about in so many ways it’s simple to end this conversation by saying “don’t do anything you’re ashamed of or can get you in trouble, and you have no problem”.

But phone carriers are pulling too much of your data using CarrierIQ. This, in short, ought to be (and probably is) illegal.

We aren’t talking about people occasionally trying to watch you in a Starbucks. This isn’t an ad-hoc you-were-doing-something-questionable-and-got-found-randomly problem. We aren’t talking about a societal change that ends privacy in surprising and uncomfortable ways or telling anecdotal stories about executives with no regard for your feelings.

This is systemic large-scale theft of your information without telling you so and without giving you a way to opt-out, even though providing that would be simple. It’s willful. It’s wrong. And short of deciding to put on that aforementioned tin-foil hat there’s nothing you can do about it.

It’s coming. Figure out how to get on board. It’s business change.

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