Disclosing Details and Security

Services like Google (Gmail , youtube etc) and Live (Hotmail, messenger etc) have started prompting users to “add a phone number” to their accounts with a big nag page that appears after logging in. There is a tiny little skip button at the bottom, but many people won’t see that and will think they have to provide this information to access their account.

I think that is tantamount to extorting or blackmailing users into supplying personal information if the users aren’t aware that it’s not compulsory.

The justification given for asking for this is that this will make your account more secure in the event that you forget your details or some such rubbish.

This is a thinly veiled attempt at joining the dots on personal information. I understand data mining and analytics with aggregations. That sort of analysis is part of the Business Intelligence world I work in and I don’t have a problem with it, but this is very different.

Mobile (cell) phone numbers do not provide useful analytics in aggregate. They give you a unique key that you can use to link databases and paint complete profiles of people that would make identity thieves, stalkers and other unsavory characters drool. They give you valuable data to sell. They give you the means to spam via sms. The last one fits into the futurist marketers wet dream, the ability to do custom marketing to the individual.

I’m not sure how the rest of the world think but I want some separation in my online life. What I do for work and for pleasure are quite different and not anyone’s business but my own.

Google already annoyed me by linking YouTube acccounts with gmail accounts (and the rest of their ecosystem). I had a YouTube account years before I had a google account and now everytime I’m logged in to google and then go to YouTube I have to log out and then in to the correct account. To some extent I like that they are trying to remove anonimity from YouTube. The type of comments you see on there are horrendously offensive and lack of anonymity would go some way to address that. On the other hand we all edge closer to a voluntary “little brother” world every time we link accounts and add phone numbers and other personal information.

I also don’t subscribe to the view that “if you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to worry about”. I do have something to hide, it’s called my private personal information and I have a right to keep it that way. The adage that power leads to corruption is more apt here. The temptation to abuse the system by those with all the data worries me more than individuals trying to hide their personal information.

I think of things like Sony’s playstation network getting hacked and account details being released including credit card information. I think of gmail accounts being hacked , yahoo accounts being hacked , Hotmail accounts being hacked and I could go on.

Adding your phone number makes you more secure? Garbage.


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