With Big Brother "Out of the Bag" On Monitoring Mobile, Will e-Merchants Suffer?

Who let the cat out of the bag?

Big Brother has been officially outed for monitoring mobile user activity without permission. This April 4th, 2012, The Atlantic article, Big Brother in Your Pocket: How Police Use Your Cell Phone to Track You begins by revealing a full force assault in the face of personal privacy: “Officers in numerous states and cities get detailed information from cell-phone carriers without a warrant — and legislators ought to stop them.” Just a few days earlier, the NYTimes reported on this very thing in an article titled, Police Are Using Phone Tracking as a Routine Tool.

We don’t need to restate the fact that mobile shoppers are subject to the same kind of privacy violations by police forces, but what we do want to address is how this could affect merchants who are ramping up efforts with mobile commerce.

The fact is that most internet and mobile users do blink a few times and get a little nervous when they feel watched, but user behavior is unlikely to change drastically, outside of a few doomsdayers dropping off the grid. That said, it doesn’t mean things won’t change. Privacy and consumer advocacy groups are likely to push laws that better protect internet users from unauthorized spying by any party. The laws in many cases (as we’ve seen with the challenge of dealing with hackers) simply haven’t caught up with the digital age. Neither have the data protection (from malicious third-parties) technologies–which is likely to spur more action that will an over-stretched police force peeping into user habits.

This recent NYTimes blog discusses some of the recent mobile payments security concerns, including one of the more common cases of potential security problems involving Google Wallet: “the mobile payments system for Android phones, was recently scrutinized for a security flaw. In February, a blog discovered that a simple procedure enabled anyone to gain access to funds stored in Google Wallet.”

For now, according to Mobile Commerce Daily, mobile commerce is still growing strong: “In 2012, mobile commerce sales will rise 73.1 percent for a total of $11.6 billion, per eMarketer. The fast pace of mobile commerce growth is helping to drive overall ecommerce growth by converting potential bricks-and-mortar sales to digital sales for consumers using their smartphones while shopping in-store.“

While this article suggests privacy and security are indeed two big concerns, the one we see taking precedence for merchants is “…convincing everyone of mobile commerce’s importance. Twenty-seven percent of top U.S. retailers do not have a mobile site, according to 2ergo. This number will decrease drastically in 2012, as more retailers and brands jump on board the mobile commerce bandwagon. However, there will always be the non-believers.”

Not going mobile because there are a few glitches leaves an awful lot of money on the table, and even worse–it’s like passing it to competitors who went mobile a year or two back.

Your thoughts?

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