Mobile phones collect lots of personal information, who decides what happens with this data?
How far can this technology go? Larry Brilliant, a physician who is the official “chief philanthropy evangelist” for Google’s charitable arm, has an audacious goal. He believes that a combination of mobile telephony and information technologies, deployed in a robust global surveillance system, can catch the next SARS or HIV long before it turns into a global pandemic. The key, he says, is “early detection and effective early response.”
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Increasingly organizations are working to tap into the power of the mobile phone as an effective data collection tool. The mobile phone is a useful weapon in being able to track the emergence and spreading of diseases. At the same time a lot of personal data and information is collected in the process. Many of these initiatives are partly sponsored by private sector organizations with invested interests. Who decides what happens with these increasing amounts of personal data and are their protocols in place that protect the rights of the individual users?
Specifically, mobile phones are being successfully used to conduct surveys. If I am a mobile phone user, how does someone get ahold of my mobile phone number? How is my data profiled and do I as a user know how my information is being used? Do I have the option to opt in or out of certain programs or is my personal information passed on to other organizations without my knowledge? These are some questions that need more attention. Granted mobile phones can play an important role in helping people access valuable information. But at the same time their participation is a vital contribution to building useful databases of information. I would be interested in knowing more about organizations and projects that are working to build the protocols needed to respect these relationships.