The New Pay Phone and What It Knows About You

By Somini Sengupta, The New York Times


For consumers who wish to ditch their wallets, paying through a mobile phone can be awfully convenient. Those same consumers can also, often unwittingly, give up valuable information about themselves to merchants that want to sell them things.

A new survey by law professors at the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that most Americans are uneasy with the idea that their phones could divulge behavioral and personal information, like phone numbers and in-store browsing habits.

The survey was created by Chris Hoofnagle and Jennifer Urban, who study digital privacy issues, and financed by Nokia, which makes cellphones. The survey posed a variety of questions by phone to 1,200 people nationwide. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

It found that four out of five of those surveyed “objected to the transfer of their phone number to a store where they purchase goods,” while 15 percent said they would “probably allow” transmission of that information and only 3 percent said they would “definitely allow it.”

It also found that consumers were less worried about giving up their e-mail addresses. Although half of the respondents said they would not want to share their e-mail addresses with the merchant, one-third said they would be “willing” or “probably willing” to do so. 4/30/2012