The mobile operator and data privacy of on-device user experience information

With the growth in social media, mobile communications and national security monitoring, concerns over personal data privacy have soared. The last few months has seen increased media interest in who has access to your most personal details. However, many of us forget how much information we willingly share – especially through social media. Updates telling ‘friends’ of exciting holiday plans and expensive purchases are posted with little hesitation – when they might as well follow up the post with ‘Oh, I’ve left the spare key under the third plant pot to the left – come in and help yourself’.

So, why the concern when mobile service provider’s try and find some extra information about their customer – just to provide us all with a better overall customer experience? Choice and trust.

When the consumer is unaware of the data being collected, a problem arises. In social media; people can control what to share and to whom. The mobile network operator can collect personal data from within the network or directly from the device. Regardless of where it is collected – honesty and openness is the best, and only, policy. To maintain a good consumer relationship the customer must trust the application – will you, with time, be willing to give away or share more personal data to help improve the mobile service you receive?

Mobile service providers have begun to realise that when it comes to improving the service they offer, gathering user experience information from the customer handset/tablet/laptop is an important source of intelligence. An On-Device user experience sensor gives the mobile service provider an accurate view of the individual’s mobile service experience but the mobile service provider must build trust with their customers’ through open and honest communication. The consumer should control, via Opt-in and Opt-out methods, whether their mobile service provider can gather user experience information from their device.

The data gathering should only be used to identify user experience issues and must have no ability to access private and personal data. Being on the consumer’s end device is the key to measuring and examining true customer experience and enabling effective action to deliver improvements. At any time, the user must be able to opt-out of their device gathering user experience information.

The end user’s ability to Opt-In or Opt-Out combined with the ability to view the information collected puts the consumer totally in control and builds trust with the service provider.

There is much good to come from the mobile service provider using on-device information to improve the mobile service experience. Knowing the precise location where calls drop, knowing which time of day the download speeds reduce to unacceptable levels, knowing which smartphone models are delivering poor radio signal quality to the users – the mobile service provider can act on these and many more user experience issues – if customers open up their devices to deliver such user experience alerts.

The (honest) employees at your chosen service provider who interpret the user experience alerts genuinely don’t care about your personal information – with on-device user experience sensors, they don’t have access to content of emails, SMS, keystroke loggers or passwords. They just want to improve the service they provide. For example – they don’t want your location details because they are creepy men in anoraks – if you have a dropped call and you’re ready to stamp on your device, what better way for operators to help you than to know what cell mast you’re nearest to, to see if there’s a problem in your area?

Facebook is valued at $50Bn (correct at time of going to print), but it’s not because it’s a cool place to do free virtual farming, it’s valued at this level because they have access to your personal information, and that’s the advertising goldmine. How many Facebook users actually care/object to targeted advertising and would it stop us using Facebook and related services? Highly unlikely.

Recent changes to the laws requiring user consent for cookies highlight a maturing in attitude of how the user should control access to their information in return for the value cookies provide. Similar maturing in attitudes in the mobile world will improve the level of mobile service for us all.

If we are to avoid long calls to the call centre about poor service performance and we want to receive useful and relevant alerts, offers or content then the On-Device consumer friendly application is the future.