Palm gets personal, Apple & RIM don't

Very few people ever seem to read the manuals that come with the products they purchase and I imagine it is even more rare for someone to read all of the terms, conditions, and privacy documents related to their smartphone. A ZDNet reader sent me a note about Palm's WebOS terms and conditions because they seemed quite intrusive and the reader wondered if every smartphone company was the same. I found and reviewed the privacy information for RIM and Apple too and found that Palm's WebOS privacy document is overly personal compared to these other two companies.

Very few people ever seem to read the manuals that come with the products they purchase and I imagine it is even more rare for someone to read all of the terms, conditions, and privacy documents related to their smartphone. A ZDNet reader sent me a note about Palm's WebOS terms and conditions because they seemed quite intrusive and the reader wondered if every smartphone company was the same. I found and reviewed the privacy information for RIM and Apple too and found that Palm's WebOS privacy document is overly personal compared to these other two companies. Windows Mobile is too difficult to find this type of information for since Microsoft makes the OS, but several different companies make the devices and terms and conditions vary by carrier and manufacturer while RIM, Apple, and Palm all develop and make their own line of products.

Palm: If you look at paragraph 4 of the Palm WebOS terms and conditions (PDF document) you will find the following:

The Services automatically send Palm various types of information, which may include the wireless phone number associated with your Device. To back up your Device information, the Services regularly send us your contacts, calendar, account credentials and settings, and preferences. During automatic remote diagnostics, your Device sends us its device ID and other related information to help us diagnose any Device issues and troubleshoot. You agree that Palm and its subsidiaries, affiliates, partners, suppliers, and agents (collectively, Affiliates) may collect, store, access, disclose, transmit, process, and otherwise use your Registration Data, account or Device information, content, and technical data for Palm and its Affiliates to provide you with the Services, address your requests, provide technical support, process any transactions for your account, and otherwise in accordance with Palm’s privacy policy found at http://www.palm.com/us/company/privacy.html, which is hereby incorporated by reference. Palm may also provide or enable certain Services through your Device that rely upon location information. In order to provide such Services, Palm and its Affiliates may collect, store,access, disclose, transmit, process, and otherwise use your location data (including real time geographic information) in accordance with Palm’s privacy policy. You also agree that Palm has the right, without liability to you, to disclose any information, including but not limited to your Registration Data and other information, to law enforcement authorities or government officials, to the extent Palm believes is reasonably necessary or appropriate.

In looking through this I thought to myself it was pretty standard since Palm does reference their privacy notice. However, if you look at paragraph 2 of their privacy notice you will see they can actually share your personal information with Palm affiliates and subsidiaries to support sales and marketing.

We may share, disclose, or transfer your personal information as follows:

  • To Palm affiliates and subsidiaries to support business operations and sales, marketing, and customer support processes;
  • To third party service providers and suppliers acting on our behalf to provide products or services to you; and
  • To other third parties for purposes you have allowed.

We may also disclose your personal information as we determine reasonably necessary to (a) comply with applicable law, regulations, legal processes, or enforceable governmental requests, (b) respond as necessary to an actual or potential lawsuit, or (c) protect the rights and property of Palm or others. We reserve the right to retain, use, and disclose aggregate or anonymous information developed from personal information at any time.

Apple: In comparison to Palm's terms you can check out Apple iPhone terms where it is pretty clear Apple is gathering data too, but specifically states, "Apple may use this information, as long as it is in a form that does not personally identify you, to improve our products or to provide services or technologies to you." Also, in regards to location data Apple clearly states, "The location data is collected in a form that does not personally identify you."

RIM: Similar to the way Apple collects and uses your information, RIM's privacy terms state that the personal information they collect and use does not include, "the name, title or business address or telephone number of an employee of an organization." RIM also clearly states the following:

Except as part of the sale of all or substantially all of the assets of RIM, RIM will not sell, trade or rent your personal information to any third party unless we have your consent. We will only use and/or disclose personal information in order to:

  • understand and meet your needs and preferences;
  • develop new and enhance existing service and product offerings;
  • manage and develop our business and operations; and
  • meet legal and regulatory requirements.

We also reserve the right to use, disclose, sell, trade, or rent data aggregated provided that the data is not linked to any specific individual.

Am I being a bit too paranoid regarding Palm's collection and sharing of my specific personal information? It seems that Apple and RIM have reasonable terms and privacy policies, but Palm gets too personal for my comfort.

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