Do mobile developers do IT with a social conscience?

Do mobile developers think about the commercial and privacy-based issues thrown up by the applications they develop? I’m sure many of them do – and I’m also sure that many of them have very commercially focused awareness of the projects they are tasked with working on.

Do mobile developers think about the commercial and privacy-based issues thrown up by the applications they develop? I’m sure many of them do – and I’m also sure that many of them have very commercially focused awareness of the projects they are tasked with working on.

But do they carry that thought process through to think about the implications that their software may have upon the everyday consumer in normal usage scenarios?

The reason I ask is that a complaint was filed last week with the Federal Trade Commission (which exists to: Serve and Protect America’s Consumers – I kid you not) about the privacy implications of mobile advertising and marketing.

The same group filed a similar complaint about Internet marketing several years ago - and now they've started picking on the mobile arena. Several news sources in the US picked up on the issue. Could this issue become more prevalent in the UK I wonder?

The only junk I get on my mobile is from Orange – and it’s not particularly ‘junky junk’ (must trademark that one) as it’s normally just half-price cinema ticket offers and that promotion is genuine and valid as far as I know.

The trouble is, you’ve probably seen the news about the huge amount of texts sent by the average youth these days and analysis companies are rapidly building up profiles of our mobile-based behaviour to CRM the ‘besjesus’ out of us (or so they hope to - further digging into the marketing industry may well tell you many organisations are not that sophisticated - but you probably already knew that from the level of service you get from some of your "service" providers).

There are a number of companies out there such as Xtract who claim to up the ante and be providers of data analysis solutions that create 3D profiles of mobile subscribers for… wait for it, “improved” marketing practices, but are they genuine - and if they are, can they help well intended mobile development to stay pure of heart and free from malicious malpractice?

I’m looking at Xtract as the company is releasing details of its privacy engine to highlight its stringent adherence to protecting subscriber privacy. If you were (or are) a mobile developer who wants to keep a clean conscience, would this be enough for you?

The main points of interest here are:

- When data analysis tools are used in a way such that data is kept completely anonymous and not mined from individual accounts, they provide the very foundation for privacy that subscribers rightly demand.

- Data should not be made visible at the network level, as some systems allow. Rather, aggregate data should be analysed with no link back to the subscribers' personal information such as what numbers they call.

- Aggregate data is a key asset for mobile operators that is underutilised today and can unlock more sophisticated mobile marketing with strict privacy credentials.

So that’s the long and short of it from Xtract, here’s a live link if you want to cast an eye over what they do and decide whether you think they are as squeaky clean as they say they are.

I personally tend to be sceptical about companies that use catch lines like “Monetizing Digital Communities” (I left the Z in for you there) – but then that’s probably just because there are so many truly junky junkers out there trying to monetise Twitter and the rest of the social computing universe and blogosphere.

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