Palm gets personal, Apple & RIM don't

Palm gets personal, Apple & RIM don't

Summary: 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.

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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.

Topics: Mobility, Apple, Hardware, BlackBerry, Smartphones, Telcos, Wi-Fi

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24 comments
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  • They just lost a customer

    No way I'm buying a Pre now.
    snafu_77
    • Why?

      Do you hear the black helicopters circling?
      pdskep
      • Nope. But why would I consent to all my personal data....

        being passed around to unknown third parties?

        "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"

        A little extreme for my liking. They can hold on to all my data? That's okay. I know privacy is an illusion but I prefer to at least have the illusion respected in some way.
        snafu_77
        • ...except

          ...you cut the quote short. it continues:

          "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"

          So, they're going to use your data to allow apps to do what YOU want, to address YOUR concerns, to provide YOU technical support, to process YOUR transactions. Oh, the horror!

          You're using a wireless device and the internet and you're worried about privacy? Do you have an e-mail account? Someone's already holding your data.

          What do you have to hide that someone, somewhere, doesn't already have?
          CelticBrewer
          • You forgot the privacy terms

            <i>" We may share, disclose, or transfer your personal information as follows:

            * To Palm affiliates and subsidiaries to <b>support business operations and sales, marketing,</b> 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."</i>

            I would want to know exactly what sales and marketing purposes are being referenced. and I mean EXACTLY!

            Palm has all of the data in my address book and they reserve the right to use that data for marketing? I was considering a Pre but without a clear staement that is extremely reassuring, that is NOT a device in my future.

            I've had the same provider for 15 years (through several ownerships) and I was ready to give someone else a chance. Even with AT&T it's likely my next upgrade will be a newer iPhone just because of this issue alone.
            use_what_works_4_U
          • I'd be surprised

            if any companies who value their privacy approved this device either. What couldn't they do under the topic of "support business operations"?

            snafu_77
          • The terms refer to the GPS and location services

            [i]* To Palm affiliates and subsidiaries to support business operations and sales, marketing, and customer support processes;[/i]

            I don't see where they have much of a choice [i]but[/i] to say this, if you're going to use location-based services. Companies release their apps that e.g., allow you to find the closest Starbucks (if you're into that kind of thing). If those apps query a web server, the information has to be shared.

            Of course, it's your choice to use such services or not, but Palm has to have a privacy agreement in place that covers either contingency.
            bhartman36
  • Why does Palm need that information?

    It's just really queer when RIM & Apple manage to do
    very well without it. Is it more than just a lawyer
    being overprotective?
    Ken_z
    • It's really nothing staggering.

      When you sign up for the Pre, you're signing up for a device that's connected to the "cloud", with one of the chief benefits to you being that a) your backed-up data is not lost if something happens to your Pre, and b) you can connect with businesses and services close to you geographically with the built-in GPS and location services. In exchange for this convenience, merchants get the chance to try and sell you their..."stuff". I really don't see it as that big a deal. It's a pretty standard way to conduct Web business (as long as you disclose the privacy terms up front, of course).

      As Scott McNealy (somewhat) famously said:

      [i]You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.[/i]

      I'm not saying someone has the right to steal information that you [i]don't[/i] put out there, but expecting anonymity on the Internet is just silly.
      bhartman36
  • RE: Most Stupid Article of 2009

    i think author will be paid by RIM and Apple to write this foolish article.

    Every mobile company stores the user's personal data. there is not big secret about it.

    Author is some loser fan of apple and rim no wonder he has written a stupidiest article of his lifetime
    gowish
    • He is paid by Apple and RIM? For

      Pointing out Palms privacy notice? Which basically
      says they can sell your name, address, and
      telephone # to advertisers and the likes, where as
      the other two will not disclose Identifiable
      information. WOW! what a stretch of imagination.
      Are you sure you don't work for Palm, or is this
      just baseless fud?
      xXSpeedzXx
    • No, it's a good article.

      He points out an important difference:

      Company 1: 'Hi, we will keep your information and use it our advantage, and - oh - we will keep all your information (y'now everything you see, do, send etc.) personally identifiable to you - also when we share it with others, which you gave us the right to do!"

      Company 2: "Hi, we do the same as company 1, but we make darn sure we make none of your information identifiable to you, when we use it - seeya tnx".

      Spot the difference?

      Personally I think your knee-jerk reaction is stupid.
      nizuse
      • When customers make noise

        Sometimes company policies get changed when customers make a stink
        about poor policy. Articles like this will educate customers and potential
        customers about Palm's anti-privacy policies.
        Marcos El Malo
      • Another important difference

        is that Palm is a "cloud" device, with a web-based operating system. ALL
        your data, photos, financial records and personal information remains in
        the CLOUD, under control of Palm, and disclosable to others.

        Device-based storage systems, like Apple and RIMM, keep most of your
        personal data on the device, except for emails, etc., and therefore not in
        possession of the Device maker, unless you choose to post it to the web.

        With Palm, EVERYTHING is put on the web.
        hardmanb
        • The OS isn't "Web-based".

          Hi, hardmanb.

          You said:

          [i]Another important difference is that Palm is a "cloud" device, with a web-based operating system. ALL
          your data, photos, financial records and personal information remains in
          the CLOUD, under control of Palm, and disclosable to others.[/i]

          The OS itself isn't "web-based". The OS is Linux (or at least a variant thereof). The application framework is HTML-based (CSS and Javascript), but that's not the same thing.

          In addition, while the Palm does store data in the "cloud", it mostly does so using applications you already use (Facebook, Gmail, Google Calendar, etc.). You don't [i]have to[/i] have the Pre pull the information from there, even if you use them. And finally, you're free to [i]delete[/i] your information from your profile at any time. It's not controled by Palm or Sprint.

          Another point needs to be made: While it's good to be concerned about one's privacy, the truth of the matter is that most companies don't [i]want[/i] all the data they can get about you. They're drowning in data already. What they want is that piece of data that'll help them pick out potential new customers, or to help keep existing customers. Information like your first pet's name, what books you read (with the exception of book stores, of course), and what your sexual habits are actually [i]distract[/i] companies from what they're looking for.

          Certainly, I wouldn't want things like SS numbers or biometrics backed up into an online profile. But I think it's less an issue of what information Palm (or RIM, or Apple) shares with other companies, and more a question of what information you share with them in the first place. After all, the whole thing is a voluntary process.
          bhartman36
  • RE: Palm gets personal, Apple & RIM don't

    Hmm...Mobile devices, for many people, store very private information. Smartphones, in particular, retain in memory or on memory chips, pictures, videos, contact and calendar information, tweets, applications and more.

    Considering Apple's app store's recent removal of a pornographic app, I'm even more concerned that mobile computing devices increasingly contain profiles of their users--information useful to advertisers, carriers, mobile app developers and others.

    Like financial and other institutions, I'd prefer an "opt-out" clause. If you opt-out of third party promotions offered by your credit card company, the company doesn't ask you to return your card. Why should it be different for a mobile phone manufacturer?
    rocketdocket
    • Opt out clause good idea

      Being aware of how much personal info is being tracked isn't paranoid - just good awareness.

      Why should people be forced to have their activities tracked - by companies who they don't even do business with - in ways that are directly traceable to the person?

      The opt-out clause is a good idea, but good luck getting it implemented. General public is more than happy to just use their devices without reading a single line of user agreement and contract. (How often and thoroughly do *you* do this?) Yay for the corporations on that point.

      The only salvation is I don't think there are cost-effective ways available (yet) to sift the humongous volumes of data being generated by users.
      yomandan
  • They lost another one.

    I advise you do the same. This is disturbing and with Barack Hussein Obama in the whitehouse, cooking up stupid laws, I will not tolerate it. I still think palm has a good place, and I still think they are a good company. Their place is in the organizer and pocket computer business, not in the smartphone business.
    Subsentient
    • Why bring in politics?

      I didn't vote for Obama, but he's our President and as it turns out he's
      pretty middle of the road. People like you are a discredit to the GOP and
      conservatives. Unfortunately, as more and more people like me leave the
      Republican Party, people like you are all that is left of the GOP.
      Marcos El Malo
    • Ugh...

      Anybody offering criticism of our president who uses his middle name as part of their arguments is obviously to ignorant to take seriously.

      And REALLY, the "organizer and pocket computer business"? What do you think a smartphone is, Hannity? It's all that and a phone... so how can Palm compete?

      It's the FREE MARKET you WORSHIP that causes this kind of privacy garbage... not the government. And I'm sure you weren't complaining about your privacy when the patriot act was allowed to look at what you were doing.

      Save your gibberisms.
      Metronome49