Attacking Analogies: The Need for Independent Standards for Mobile Privacy


Matthew Whitten

The impact of modern technology cannot be overstated; it has quickly impacted the lives of most Americans in a relatively short amount of time. In 2012, 78% of Americans reported owning a desktop or laptop computer. In 2014, 64% of Americans stated that they owned a smartphone. Of those surveyed, 44% of cell owners admitted to sleeping next to their phones so that they would not miss an important update during the night, and 29% confessed they could not imagine living without their phone. Clearly, new technology has taken firm root in our society and influences the way we live our lives. While this adoption rate speaks to the power of technology, it does not tell the whole story. With the prevalence of these new technologies, however, have come new concerns about individual privacy and how these new developments affect these concerns. Privacy is implicated in ways that have not yet been addressed, even as computers and cellphones have become a routine part of everyday life. While both computers and smartphones are used for Internet access, the manner in which mobile technology interacts with the Internet is unique. Internet use on computers is commonly characterized by browsers and implicates privacy issues associated with the use of cookies. Mobile technology, in comparison, may concern location data privacy issues through the use of mobile applications. The manner in which the modern smartphone has become a microcosm of an individual, through text messages, calls, cameras, video recording, and geotagging, may lead to further privacy issues as well if this information is placed in the wrong hands. One in five users turns off location tracking and one in three regularly clears their phone’s search history – this evidences a growing concern of the average person to maintain control of privacy as the use of technology is further incorporated into everyday life.

Given the relative infancy of mobile technology, there is not yet an effective system of handling the privacy concerns that arise from its use. Since mobile technology is only going to become more entrenched in our way of life, such a scheme is imperative. This paper will discuss one such potential system. Part II will examine how computer privacy, particularly cookie tracking, spyware, and cloud computing, has typically been viewed and handled. Part III will discuss how location-based data, mobile applications, and the extensive integration of cell phones in modern life implicate longstanding privacy interests. Lastly, Part IV proposes that any shortcomings or disputes with regard to mobile privacy should be resolved with respect to its own body of law, as opposed to analogies to other, distinct technologies, as the area of mobile privacy has previously been handled. This new proposed body of law takes the form of legislation implicating mobile application controls, privacy policy and “Do Not Track” protection changes, and securing phone data.

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February 14, 2016 PDF Articles, Volume 19

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