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8/13/2009
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Palm Addresses Pre Privacy Concerns

Developers were concerned after discovering the smartphone sends user location and application data to Palm daily.

Palm said there is nothing nefarious with its Pre smartphone periodically sending back data to the company.

The concern sprang up after developer Joey Hess dug through webOS and figured out the iPhone rival was transmitting data to Palm once a day. This data includes a Pre user's location, which application they're using, the app crash logs, and which apps users have installed.

Palm said this type of action is covered in its privacy policy that Pre users accept, and this data can eventually lead to improvements to the mobile operating system. "Our privacy policy is like many policies in the industry and includes very detailed language about potential scenarios in which we might use a customer's information, all toward a goal of offering a great user experience," Palm said in an e-mailed statement to the press. "For instance, when location-based services are used, we collect their information to give them relevant local results in Google Maps. We appreciate the trust that users give us with their information, and have no intention to violate that trust."

This type of data collection is relatively common, as Mac OS and Windows can also report back to their respective companies when apps crash, and mobile operators can also gather location data for network-quality purposes. But even the appearance of a privacy violation could hurt Palm's chances of making a comeback in the smartphone space.

The touch-screen Pre was introduced with much fanfare earlier this year as a Sprint exclusive handset, and the operating system has received praise for its ability to bring various Web services into a single finger-friendly interface. Although the handset broke Sprint sales records, most analysts estimate there have been only a few hundred thousand units sold since its June release. By contrast, Apple's iPhone 3GS sold one million units in its launch weekend.


Most companies are just starting the hard work of mobilizing workforces by bringing the software they use to smartphones. InformationWeek analyzed this issue in an independent report, and it can be downloaded here (registration required).

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