Newswise — Stephen B. Wicker, Cornell professor of electrical and computer engineering, teaches and conducts research in wireless information networks, privacy-aware design, computer security and digital telephony. He focuses on the interface between information networking technology, law and sociology, with a particular emphasis on how design choices and regulation can affect the privacy and speech rights of users.
Regarding the recent revelations that files on iPads and iPhones exist that detail where users are geographically and what applications they use, he says: “Cellular convergence and the ubiquity and power of the cellular platform have led to major changes in personal and social dynamics, political action, and economics.
“It is vitally important to recognize that cellular telephony is a surveillance technology, and that unless we openly discuss this surveillance capability and craft appropriate legal and technological limits to that capability, we may lose some or all of the social benefits of this technology, as well as a significant piece of ourselves.
“Most people don’t understand that we’re selling our privacy to have these devices.
“The data that is collected by service providers and third parties can be used for direct marketing. Direct marketing is an enormous industry. According to the Direct Marketing Association, $149.3 billion was spent on direct marketing in 2009, more than half of all advertising expenditures in the United States with a return of close to $1.783 trillion dollars in sales attributable to the advertising. The latter amounted to 8.3 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.
“Back in the day when designers designed the cellular system, none of designers took privacy into account – they unintentionally created databases that accumulated a lot of information that is now being exploited by service providers and law enforcement. As for the latter, there have been an immense number of court cases involving law enforcement requests for data collected by cellular service providers.
“We can create cellular systems that don’t create such databases.”