Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Privacy of Your Mobile

I lost my mobile phone a while ago; fortunately it was several years old and a little battered, so I wasn't especially aggrieved by the loss [I was of course furious with myself and vowed to never wear the offending trousers, which don't have pockets nearly deep enough, again]. This may sound odd, but the thing that concerned me most was the data on the phone. The thought of some stranger going through my stuff was a little unsettling, and the possibility of that information being exploited concerned me. I needed to know how bad the damage was, so I wrote down a list of things on my phone that could be considered personal, sensitive, and private.

Now, I'm generally very careful when it comes to privacy and the like, so I was pleased and mostly unsurprised to find that there wasn't much on there to be worried about. There were photos, but all were inconsequential (yeah, I always delete the salacious ones!); I had notes and to do items, all inconsequential; I had some low priority passwords stored on it, but those were in an encrypted 'safe' application protected by a strong password. The phone book was mostly basic, I didn't have any details on most people besides their name and number, though for some people I had foolishly entered address and other details as well. Text messages were also a bit worrying because I couldn't remember what was there - plenty of frivolous personal stuff, but what about my SMS banking messages? Did the new possessor of my phone know my bank balance and account number? After mulling it over I felt fairly confident I hadn't used the service in a while.

The point of all this is, a mobile phone is an item easily lost that can potentially contain a load of information about you and people you know that you might not want in someone else's hands, if only because of the creepiness factor. Full names with birthdays, addresses, work details, and a few pieces of other personal info gleaned from text messages, and who knows what some unscrupulous person could do? Improbable perhaps, but still, not impossible. I'm relatively cautious, so I shudder to think about how much info the average person keeps on their phone that could be exploited!

Despite having been cautious, I'm still more than a little disappointed with myself for slipping up in a few areas. A phone is here today but might be gone tomorrow; it's the type of thing that can be lost in an instant in all manner of situations. So, from now on I've decided to adopt an absolute worst case scenario mentality and not store personal info on my phone unless absolutely necessary. Because, well, you can never be too safe... and besides, thinking about it, did I really need all that stuff on there in the first place*?

* Of course, it has to be stored somewhere, and this is something I've been pondering for a while now. Online storage makes information accessible anywhere with net connectivity (which is becoming increasingly ubiquitous), and you'd only have to worry about the reliability of the service provider and their privacy policy. Local copies on a personal computer are also relatively safe, though, imagine if someone stole your computer and looked through the contents of the hard drive?

1 comment:

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