FOR the world's smartphone users, last Thursday brought them worrying news: Researchers discovered that the ubiquitous iPhones keep track of their movements without their knowledge and store related information locally on the device.
"Apple has made it possible for almost anybody...with access to your phone or computer (where a user backs up his/her iPhone) to get detailed information about where you've been," research-team member Pete Warden said, as quoted by British newspaper The Guardian.
To be fair, all cellular-phone service providers keep information concerning their phones. However, in most countries, the data (stored in the providers' servers) is off limits without a court order.
But for iPhone users, simply losing their phones or iPhone backup computers can mean the leaking of the history of their whereabouts for as long as they have owned the phone.
Smartphones and social networking are filling the gap in intelligence gathering not only because of their popularity but, more importantly, because they have the potential to turn people into their own spies.
No hovering machine is needed to keep track of people's actions and locations because they carry the homing devices with them all the time and often are gladly updating their actions on their social-network pages.
It is not a secret that one of the most valuable assets of social-networking sites is the user logs, which reveal important information about the users, such as their preferences, their networks of friends and the patterns of their lives.
Chances are extremely slim that an Apple or Facebook mainframe will go rogue.
But worrying practices such as Apple's tell us the potential danger of entrusting our digital best friends with too much personal information without understanding how the data is being handled.
For now, too many users are still charmed by the fun side of having a machine that knows their location but are overly ignorant of the potential risks.
Many are handing over information about themselves without asking vital questions.
Most governments have yet to adequately regulate the storage and use of user information.
Technology is neutral. It is business integrity and prudent regulations that ensure a good and safe environment for the growing smartphone and social-network population. More effort must be devoted to User Security 2.0.
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-The China Post/Asia News Network