Testing Obama’s Technology Agenda

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In the midst of all the fanfare surrounding tomorrow’s presidential inauguration, certain consumer advocates are already setting challenges for the new administration. This time in the mobile consumer privacy arena.

The Center for Digital Democracy and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group have just filed a 52-page complaint (PDF), seeking new security regulations for the privacy of mobile-phone users.

Granted, our new President will have more pressing issues to deal with (cough! economy!) once he sets foot in the oval office on Tuesday, but this issue regarding the privacy of mobile-web users will definitely be one of the first tests to the merit of Obama’s technology agenda.

Tucked under the heading of “Safeguard our Right to Privacy“, this agenda states the new administration will strive to:

Strengthen privacy protections for the digital age and harness the power of technology to hold government and business accountable for violations of personal privacy.

This sounds promising for mobile-web users and those who filed the recent complaint. It all depends on what their definition of “violations of personal privacy” is, but as long as the new administration holds accountable those parties who violate personal privacy, then cell-phone users will have a good reason to feel protected when using the mobile-web.

But what does this mean for Google and other search engines that are currently pulling personal information from not just mobile-web users, but everyone who uses a search engine?

I understand that much of the information search engines are gathering is for the purpose of serving up better search results and advertisements, but not all of it is. In addition, according to its Mobile Privacy Policy, Google uses personally identifying information for many purposes, including:

We use your information to process and personalize your requests. We also use the information for support, to develop new features, and to improve the overall quality of Google’s products and services.

I suppose the future of this debate lies squarely in the hands of our soon-to-be President and his new administration. As long as they follow through with the initiatives set forth in their technology agenda, complaints such as this most recent one on mobile-web privacy will be handled appropriately. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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