In the latest Big Brother-ish story to hit, a developer has discovered
that the Palm Pre and Palm webOS know way too much about him than he wants. Not only does it upload location-based information to Palm, it also uploads data about his application usage.
webOS also reports back crash log information to Palm. Of course, many PCs and smartphones do this as well. It would surprise us if you have never seen a request to send crash data to Microsoft on Windows or Windows Mobile. Thing is, in those cases, you usually get some sort of prompt asking if you want to send the collected data, or not.
Honestly, it's transparency that's lacking here. People tend to forget all information silently sent along as you browse the Web. As an example, let's not forget that in 2008, when addressing a lawsuit over Google Street View, the company said that "complete privacy no longer exists."
In fact, if the crash data helps Palm improve webOS, we're all for it, as long as:
a) Palm anonymizes the data
b) Palm offers a way to opt out
Here's what Palm said in a statement:
Palm takes privacy very seriously, and offers
users ways to turn data collecting services on and off. Our privacy
policy is like many policies in the industry and includes very detailed
language about potential scenarios in which we might use a customer's
information, all toward a goal of offering a great user experience. For
instance, when location based services are used, we collect their
information to give them relevant local results in Google Maps. We
appreciate the trust that users give us with their information, and
have no intention to violate that trust.
That's all great, but we think that Palm needs to elaborate on just how to opt-out of this. That's still something that no one truly knows how to do --- yet.