O? not very forthcoming with location based spamming info

Today, O? announced? a deal with Placecast, a San Francisco based mobile location based marketing company.

People who’ve opted into the O? More service will receive SMS or MMS vouchers to use in nearby shops that have geo-fenced areas of the UK. So if you walk into an area near Starbucks for example, you might receive an SMS promo voucher. L’OrĂ©al are apparently also taking part in the 6 month trial.


Placecast isn’t a technology like you might be familiar with on your iPhone, Android or other GPS enabled handset. Those services rely on a GPS location event happening on your phone, and reporting back to the service you’re using over the Internet. This means you have a reasonable amount of control over the way your phone is tracked online. If you don’t want people to know where you are, you just don’t check-in to Foursquare. Seemples.

Placecast’s service uses cell-tower triangulation to work out where you are. Location Based Services (LBSs) can buy that stream of data from your mobile phone company. Because they’re doing it at the network level, they don’t need you to take out your phone and check-in to Facebook Places – the stream of data is sent from O? to Placecast all the time – unless you send a text to turn the service off.

In my view, this is a pretty major change to the way that most people view LBSs. With services like Foursquare, Facebook Places, Brightkite, Google Latitude, Runkeeper, etc, users are used to having a certain amount of control over sharing such personal information. So I would expect the O? More product pages to spell out the privacy implications of O?’s deal with Placecast. They don’t.

The only reference to personal information used to power the service is the weaselly worded:

15. What information about me will you use for this?

Only things we’ve learnt about you since you’ve been on O2. For example, if we know you download music to your phone, we’ll send you details of a music offer.

Hopefully, this is just due to the fact that the O? More pages have not caught up with the press release. But will O? text or email their 1 million already opted-in customers to tell them about the Big Brother marketing they will soon enjoy?

About Graham

Forty-something gay geek living in Kings Cross with my collection of shiny computers and my fish.
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