Report: Your Palm Pre may be spying on you

The report of Palm snooping on its customers is growing in volume within the blogosphere with many taking the allegations seriously

Is your Palm Pre spying on you and sending your GPS coordinates and more back to the Palm mothership on a daily basis? According to mobile application developer Joey Hess that's exactly what is happening. He asserts on his personal blog that data on the location and app used on the Palm's Pre smartphone is being sent to Palm.

The report of Palm snooping on its customers is growing in volume within the blogosphere with many taking the allegations seriously. To be clear the allegation can not be confirmed.

Palm responded to our request for comment with this statement:

"Palm takes privacy very seriously, and offers users ways to turn data collecting services on and off. Our privacy policy is like many policies in the industry and includes very detailed language about potential scenarios in which we might use a customer's information, all toward a goal of offering a great user experience. For instance, when location based services are used, we collect their information to give them relevant local results in Google Maps. We appreciate the trust that users give us with their information, and have no intention to violate that trust."

Hess says he took a close look at the code in his Pre's WebOS and found that the phone was periodically sending information to Palm. Some of this data is fairly benign, such as information on WebOS crashes. Things get a little freakier, however, if you believe Hess when he asserts Palm is gathering users' GPS information, along with data on every app used, and for how long you used it. This information gets uploaded to Palm on a daily basis, Hess claims.

Without the ability to hack into WebOS, there doesn't seem to be a way to disable this alleged communication, Hess says. According to Palm's terms and conditions for the WebOS there is nothing that mentions this exact type of data collection and reporting. However, a section of Palm's terms does say it has the right to "collect, store, access, disclose, transmit, process, and otherwise use your Registration Data, account or Device information," and may also do the same with your location data to provide location services.

The terms also note that Palm can disclose "any information" to law enforcement authorities, so keep that in mind if you're on the run from the law. Compared to the iPhone, which allows users to block location tracking by switching off the phone's "Location Services," Palm seems to be prying from the moment you turn on the phone's map service.

Lauren Weinstein, co-founder of People for Internet Responsibility, said he's still collecting information and didn't want to comment on Hess' report until he could confirm it. But Weinstein says he's generally wary of usage terms and conditions that allow data collection, especially if the user can't opt out through the device. He said location data is particularly sensitive, because it can be requested or subpoenaed.

"Any time there's automatic reporting that includes what users are doing, and there hasn't been some kind of affirmative acknowledgment ... that opens up some questions," he said.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Palm Presmartphones

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jared Newman

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?