The World According To Tim Green: hiding from Big Brother | Mobile Industry | Mobile Entertainment

The World According To Tim Green: hiding from Big Brother

The World According To Tim Green: hiding from Big Brother
Tim Green


Industry / December 13th 2012 at 2:00PM

If your mobile status is your best protection against fraud, what happens when you want to opt out to buy ladies' underwear?

This week, I'll start with a short poem.

I like my bike.

There, done.

Two wheels are just marvellous. But tragically, for the last few days, I have been without my bike because the chain snapped.

I've wracked my brains as to why this might have happened and realised it could be something to do with the fact that I use my bike every day – and leave it outside to face the elements every night.

I never clean or service it either.

Maybe that's it.

Anyhow, I have been forced to get the tube every day. This is pretty horrible as anyone who's ever used London Underground will know.

But one good thing about the tube is the Oyster payment system – a contactless card that lets you tap in to enter a station. All based on NFC (mmm, here's an idea - maybe NFC could be embedded in phones… someone should look into that).

So every day I top up my Oyster card using cash at a machine. And every day the machine asks me: why not top up online?


Something inside my impressively muscular frame kicks strongly against this kind of intrusion. Instinctively I just don't want big institutions to know about me. I don't have any supermarket loyalty cards for the same reason.

Now, I know this makes me a massive hypocrite, as I earn my living from writing about mobile payment and advertising services that rely on big data to personalise their offerings and thereby make money.

It's a bit rich of me to swat up on this stuff and then opt out of it in my private life.

Now, I know what you're saying: you are just a grouchy old fucker, too wary of THE MAN to surrender your details to him. But younger people have different notions of privacy.

That's all true, of course (especially the bit about me being an old fucker). However, I do think there's an interesting bigger question here.

Even people with a more open approach to their data will have occasions during which they want to opt out.

Imagine a future in which mobile wallets are ubiquitous, we use them all the time, and each transaction is recorded for our own records and to ensure the provider can improve the security of the account.

What happens if we want to do something discreet like buy drugs or pay for a crack whore? There may come a point at which every prostitute will have a Pay By Square account and cash will no longer be acceptable.

What about buying lingerie for the wife to wear? Or buying lingerie for yourself to wear?

We may wish to keep these transactions off the books, as it were.

How can we opt out? Will providers support an equivalent of 'private browsing' on Firefox or Chrome? And if they do, what will be the implications?

There are no simple answers to this. This is because, if the received wisdom is anything to go by, your mobile identity will be integral to the security systems of the future and opting out could compromise them.

The very very clever Dave Birch at Hyperion Consult has come up with the concept of the Psychic ID, for example.

It's a big idea, but within it is the notion your mobile status is the best possible protection against financial theft because a system that knows where you are, who you are, where you've been and what your typical habits are can spot anomalies in real time.

So in the normal course of events, there would be minimal input needed from you to complete a transaction. Maybe a PIN. Maybe nothing at all.

But if you're abroad or processing a larger amount than normal or making more payments than is typical, the system would spot the anomaly and require more authentication.

It could ask for bank details or even send you a text with a verification code.

I suppose the obvious answer is the quandary is to stick with cash for all your carnal-based purchases or get yourself a secret second phone.

Imagine the illicit thrill of pulling out that alternate device. You could make it really dirty by choosing something exotic and forbidden, like Symbian.