We know who you are, but also where you are…

If something is to be remembered from the World Economic Forum 2008 edition it is probably the very candid comment made by the Wang Jianzhou, the CEO of the world’s largest mobile phone operator.

“We know who you are, but also where you are” was actually meant to convince the audience that China Mobile could use the personal data of its customers to sell advertising and services to them based on knowledge of where they were and what they were doing. Instead it turned into worries about the risk of passing over private information to  Chinese authorities: with more than 370 million subscribers, China Mobile has a real-time ear and eye on 25% of the country’s citizens.

The outcry of congressman Markey (chairman of the US House of Representatives subcommittee on telecommunications) was even more surprising since most national security agencies have so-called signals intelligence collection and analysis networks (like Echelon or Onyx). That said most countries are supposed to have checks and controls in place to make sure that only court orders allow the government to check phone records.

Maybe time has come to look into more details at how the mobile phone is becoming a threat to privacy in all countries!

P.S.: It is quite revealing that the two operators invited to the World Economic Forum’s discussion on “The Future of Mobile Technology” were China Mobile and SK Telecom