America has had a monopoly of the cloud with regards mobile computing and consequently of having access to user data. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple and

Smartphone Data Privacy: the red pill or the blue pill?

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Red pill; Blue pill

America has had a monopoly of the cloud with regards mobile computing and consequently of having access to user data. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple and others all did it. They sniffed though your stuff, uploaded and saved some of them, and basically created this whole new world in which nothing is hidden once you connect your smartphone.

During the European era, personal data and privacy were sacrosanct. Europeans are not half as cow boyish as the Americans, you see. They cherish privacy. As such during the period that Europe led mobile innovation, think Nokia, Siemens and co, the idea of sending people’s data to a remote server would be met with stuff opposition. Even till today, the loudest clamour for online privacy is still from Europe

The Chinese, however, are a different kettle of fish. Bent on copying and outshining the US in the game, they are building alternative brands to what America offers – and now they too want our data. Actually, they are already getting it. Think Baidu. Think Xiaomi. You can be sure that there are others too, and time will reveal them.

Right now, who gets your data boils down to your choice of brands. Think of the Matrix. It is a choice between the blue pill and the red pill. In some cases, it is a mixture.

What bothers me is why Europe isn’t building alternatives? If they did, we would also have a white or transparent pill as an option. Very likely, it would be a saner option considering the more conservative outlook of Europe to privacy issues.


  1. I think it has more to do with time than Europeans and their privacy policy or America and their little respect for privacy. When the Europeans were in charge, we didn’t have this level of Internet penetration and why should we even be complaining about privacy when services likes Facebook and Twitter are designed for you to discover the world and people and for people to discover you in return? The way these services are designed, if you don’t like them or care about your privacy so much, then you will do better to stay away from them or use fictitious names instead. What with people deliberately posting their daily lives on the Internet, every single activity of their lives are posted online deliberately. Could such people also complain about privacy?

    Yahoo and Google started started their businesses in the ’90s and things weren’t this open with them then, it’s only the general evolution of the Internet and telecommunication in general that kicked up this new shift to little or no-privacy Internet age.

  2. Harry,

    It isn’t just a matter of time with the Europeans. Till date, the strongest advocates for privacy issues are Europeans. They also seem to be the only ones also making any laws to check service providers till date. Europe has a conservative stand towards privacy issues.

  3. It’s definitely not a matter of time with the Europeans. An interesting dimension is that many European companies and governments are outsourcing their document storage to the US.

    The problem there, as has been the case relatively recently, is that if that information is compromised even abroad, the company/government can still be fined for breach of data in Europe if it gets to that stage.

    And as one judge has said, hiding “no liability” in the terms and conditions doesn’t absolve them.

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