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Palm 'Thorks' Itself in the Forehead

Friday, 14 Aug 2009 | 10:21 AM ET
PALM
PALM

At some point, somebody's got to wise up at Palm and realize something's gotta be done so the company can get out of its own way.

Nevermind the quirky marketing strategy, the yip-yip dog approach to show-dog competition from Apple and Research in Motion . I'm talking about something far more serious that threatens the new Palm Pre adoption by the market place.

The Los Angeles Times yesterday reported that Palm can, and is, tracking the locations of Palm Pre's. Yes, you read that right: the GPS technology in the Pre actually sends a signal back to Palm telling the company where the phone is physically located.

Are you kidding me? Well, no.

Wait, there's more. Palm apparently also can remotely track the use of certain applications on the Pre. Talk about an OMG moment!

It's one thing if during the development process of this device that someone on the inside thought for some reason that this was a good idea. It's quite another to stand by the stupidity when those on the outside are made aware of it, ask the company about it, and the company still stands by it.

Which is apparently exactly what happened yesterday. When the Times called Palm for comment, not only did the company not deny it, but proceeded to explain why this was all OK.

The vague statement issued said Palm "privacy policy" includes detailed language in its more than 1,600 words about how the company might use a user's information "all toward the goal of providing a great user experience." How that's done by invading a user's privacy I have no idea, but this continues a trend of misplaced hubris at this company that has never made sense to me.

The Times continues with Palm's statement: "We appreciate the trust that users give us with their information, and have no intention to violate that trust."

Puh-leeeze. If Palm is so concerned with trust violation and a user's experience, give users the chance to opt in or out of this bizarre, Big Brother proposition. Instead, Palm pats its Pre owners on the forehead, saying "There, there. We know what's good for you. Settle down. We'll take care of everything."

In reality, Palm's team is wrapping its collective thumb around its middle finger and flicking itself in the forehead. A "thork."

I thought privacy policies were around to protect the customer! Silly me. Palm instead should be using its GPS technology to search for the location of new potential buyers; to search for a truly effective way to compete in the marketplace; to search for a way to stop embarrassing itself.

Palm, give your valued, and precious few Pre customers a chance to disable this feature, or just turn it off for them. Otherwise it might be real easy to keep track of all your Pre's: they'll be unsold, on store shelves, right where you left them.

(I'm certainly interested in your thoughts on this: is Palm Big Brother, or merely a big helper? Let me know. And follow me on Twitter: @jimgoldman)

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