Mobile Identity Management: The power of Apps

26 Jul 2012

The mobile phone in addition to a wallet and house keys has become one of the essentials to take with you when leaving the house. By storing all the technical necessary applications on a SIM card, the mobile phone has turned into a device for managing each person’s digital identity (

I acquired a new mobile phone recently. This one (Samsung Galaxy Note) uses Android operating system unlike my old Nokia E series that used a Symbian operating system. The high interoperable design of the Android system means there is literally an App (Application) for everything. Apps have made mobile identity management easier. I decided to put to test how much information I could give about myself to second and third parties through my phone, and how the information could be linked to manage my identity both online and off-line.

Key technologies on my new mobile phone include a GPS device, easy App downloading system, widgets that deliver live information to my phone’s screen, and different types of connectivity (LAN, Wi-Fi, WAP, VPN and so on); together with Apps designed to move me on to the next available connection, I am usually connected. I went overboard in the App department and downloaded lots such as:

Google Search, which uses my phone’s GPS (when turned on) to deliver results relevant to the location that I am in; and results based on my previous searches.

Social Hub, which brings together all my e-mail accounts (I have five: two Gmail, two Hotmail, and one Exchange); all or any social media account I have (Twitter, Facebook, tumblr, LinkedIn and so on); and my text and SMS messages into one inbox.

I already have Google Navigation software installed on my phone with satellite and street views.

I downloaded my bank’s App to get regular updates of my account activity.

I also download Expedia and other Apps that use GPS to advertise nearest hotels, cafes, supermarkets to me depending on my location. These are all delivered through live widget feeds with vibrant pictures that give me picturesque ideas of what I can expect. With Google street map, I can virtually walk-up and down the street to suss any area out from my remote location. For example, I am going be in a conference in Barcelona early next year, and was able to use street map to scrutinise the vicinity, going up and down the streets pinpointing metro stops, ATMs and cafes in three-dimension.

My weather App changes according my location using my GPS.

Amazon (Kindle) App enables me to buy and read books on my phone but also advertise other books to me based on what I’ve bought.

A product scanner App enables me to scan items and buy them online.

I get adverts directed to me based on which Apps I’ve been downloading. For example, after downloading Autotrader App, I was bombarded with car insurance adverts; after downloading a feminine App, I received lots of womanly adverts whenever I’m using the App.

I registered my credit card ages ago on Google Checkout. For some reason, this credit card appeared on my phone when I wanted to download a paid App. I was initially surprised but wanted to get the App anyway so didn’t think twice about how my credit card details on one (web) service should appear on my mobile phone for another service.

After the euphoria of acquiring all these wonderful dependable Apps that can run my life, I starting wondering how much information I have given about my identity. With increasing interconnected online accounts, my habits and activities could be linked. For example, my YouTube account uses my Gmail account to log-in, some websites will only allow you to use their services only if you log-in with a Facebook account, all my emails are now connected though the social hub on my phone, and so are all my contacts, and various calendars.

I began to worry a little, but after a couple of minutes, I shrugged and said to myself, what harm could it possibly do if I traded in personal information for these wonderful Apps. So what if my movements, activities, friends could be tracked through my digital identities managed through my phone Apps. So what if third parties could see all my contacts. After all, I have all these great Apps, and I could not do without them, or could I?