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Smartphone usage data and marketing your self

I recently bought a smartphone and in the five or so weeks that I've been using it, I have downloaded a good number of Android apps and have viewed the descriptions of several more. The number of people developing Android apps is enormous. It is aided by the fact that Google makes it so easy to develop apps. The tutorial offered by Google for wanna-be Android app developers covers all the basics and enables anyone with any background to develop Android apps.

What does having so many apps available in the Android market mean?

For starters, any need, however personal it might seem to you, is likely to be addressed by an Android app that's readily available for download. If it isn't available, then Google provides you all the tools to make one and put it up in the Android market. That's brilliant, isn't it?

Well, if this was the end of the story, I'd say it indeed is brilliant. But that's not the case.

I'm not sure how many of you smartphone users read the terms and conditions before installing an app. I have been doing that for most of the apps I use and one thing I've noticed is that a majority of the apps need to be given permission to access and save data about our usage that can be remotely connected to the app. So, it can be safely assumed that every smartphone user's behaviour is extremely easy to track if someone wanted to. Everything from who you call, how often, for how long, from where, who you text, what you text, so on and so on. It is currently illegal to perform that kind of tracking in most countries, but there's little guarantee that that will always be the case.

So, if this were to be made legal at some point, the amount of control exerted upon us by those who can reward us for our behaviour if it is of help to them will be enormous. They can practically tell us how to spend every waking moment of our day.

How, you ask?

Let us take a look at an anology. The corporates exercise complete control over what courses people take up, how much effort they put in for exams, for extra-curricular activities, and so on. It is common knowledge in any University (irrespective of what course it is) as to which company expects you to do what during your time at the University for you to be hired by them once you graduate. So they practically define what you do at University. So you're not choosing courses when you enter a University, but you're choosing potential employers instead.

Getting back to Android apps, if the data collected by them could be sold to those who are willing to buy, legally, then you as a user knows that all your usage data is at the end of the day being bought by a few companies. Now, let's say, the companies buying the data start hiring people that have a particular behaviour (like those who stay home on weekends, or those who call their parents regularly), these criteria will become common knowledge to potential candidates. It need not just be hiring. It could be promotions, marriage proposals, anything. Then, people will start following those behaviour patterns to be eligible to be hired or promoted or whatever else.

The point of this post?

It is quite evident that the public data legally available of any person can be efficiently used to determine what s/he considers as incentives worthy of pursuing. So just take a look at the publicly (legally) available data about you and identify where you expect a person with that data to go next. Then, ask yourself if that is the place you want to go. If not, you know what to change to market yourself better. 

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