Idea 3: Open the user profile to service providers

Today, the mobile phone operator has the data regarding whom I call and how often, whom I message and with frequency, where I am at any given moment of time, and so on. In other words, my personal and social profile resides in the collection of actions that I do with my mobile. In India, it is the mobile phone usage and not the email and Web usage which has a better potential of defining the all-important social graph. Imagine if this data were made available to developers to build the next-generation of social applications.

Of course, privacy norms will need to be respected – the mobile subscriber will have the control to decide which applications can use the data. This is somewhat like what Facebook has done.

Again, what the mobile operator is doing is converting itself into a platform and allowing other service providers to build on top. This is the approach which will pay dividends over time. Operators today have the critical mass (in terms of absolute numbers and reach) to make this happen. A new operator may just be the one to open up this space.

17 thoughts on “Idea 3: Open the user profile to service providers

  1. This is an interesting idea – and I now find myself wondering about how best this can be put to use. Privacy, of course, is going to be a major concern – since your telephone conversations are an order of magnitude more private than what you have on Facebook (you’ll only put on Facebook what you want to share). It’ll be interesting to see how this can be dealt with. It’ll require mobile operators to develop very sophisticated user-interface models — which I don’t see happening very soon given the number of phone calls I have to make to the support center to get any problem fixed.

    I believe the other way to work this out is by integrating the mobile network with existing infrastructure for location sharing, profile information etc. (like Y! FireEagle etc.), or even Facebook for something that you wish to share. I think owing to the fact that services like Facebook take the whole UI part far more seriously, the second is a more likely outcome.

    On another note, I think in all the growth chasing low ARPU subscribers, the high ARPU subscribers have been neglected — and I think the operators can provide a lot of premium services (like simpler roaming, data access, better support) and charge more for it. I for one will be happy to jump ship if only I got better support.

  2. Rajesh this has huge and i mean HUGE privacy implications. Allowing the operators to hand over our user date to service providers. This might be good for the operators and service providers but definitely not for subscriber privacy. As it is the operators do not give much important to privacy and absolutely no one follows DND. If even a small set of data is given I am sure there will be lot of miuses

  3. I would put that under my Wish-list rather than in Idea list 🙂 .

    It is just like asking Facebook to open-up their DB and allow everyone to play with.

  4. I feel that what you are asking for is a development platform from the cellular operator.

    iPhone along with ATT provided such platform in US and Europe. Now Blackberry, Nokia and even Palm are following the footsteps.

    I wonder if a browser which will work on most of the phones with decent performance (speed and battery life) can provide such a platform.

    It can provide UI rendering engine.

    It has to support development web toolkit.

    And browser should provide access to payment, profiles data etc.

    Since this need is specific to India the solution will have to come from India.

    I don’t think privacy will be an issue because whatever data is exchanged between operator and Application provider will be by end user permission.

    And someone has to convince an operator to enable users use such a platform and then market it well.

    Task does not look impossible!


  5. An interesting idea on similar lines would be:
    All users upload their phone book from their mobile phone and the app automatically figures out how people are connected. So your network is auto created!

  6. Is the privacy problem addressable?

    Suppose each telephone number was mapped to an opaque ID using a 1-way hash function by the operator before exposing the calls information to a third party.

    The social graph is now visible and usable but only the operator has the ability to map the opaque ID back to the original phone number.

    1. The subscriber will opt-in to such a service.

    2. The subscriber can allow the mapping function to allow his opaque id’s to be matchable to other subscribers’ mapping functions or disallow it. i.e. Suppose A calls C and B calls C. Unless A and B both allow, the fact that they called the same C cannot be deduced.

    Even with these restrictions, we can design many value-added services on top.

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