My mobile phone provider thinks i am an tsunami victim...

15 Feb 2005 | 645 words | data surveillance mobile networks india

… and has a pretty poor sense of geography.

Got my monthly bill from my mobile phone provider (orange Netherlands which an almost completely different entity than the orange operating in Bombay. They just use the same brand identity and parts of the companies are held by the same holding: hutchinson whampoa limited).now getting a monthly phone bill is nothing special, but getting one which informs you have been a tsunami victim an that they therefore credited you with €42.05 for ‘possible extra phone expenses related to the tsunami’ is somewhat strange. especially if you have not been affected by the tsunami as you where safe on a jet airways flight from Bombay to Delhi when the whole thing hit the coasts of India and Sri lanka. now it is no secret that mobile phone providers record the location data a mobile phone generates, but at least under dutch law this data cannot be used by them for anything else except invoicing purposes (and they have to retain it for law enforcement purposes for half an eternity or so). and as far as i can tell remember i did not generate any data at all during the time the tsunami hit. i switched of my phone on the 7th of december in delhi, replaced the sim card by and airtel india branded one and switched back to my orange sim on the 11th of january at the airport in delhi to make a couple of calls before flying back to amsterdam. so as far as they can tell i have been delhi all the time which thanks to its inland location and altitude is probably even less tsunami affected than amsterdam. of course they could also have a look at my call record and would discover that i did not make any calls during that time either….

For sure i am not comfortable with my phone company using this (non) data to become some kind benevolent paternalistic entity that does a little monetary intervention here and then when things get a bit more bumpy that the average european can be expected to be able to cope with. and if i should ever want something like this i will buy a travel insurance policy. i can imagine how these public relation geniuses at orange have seen this golden opportunity to build up a personal relationship with their customers. given all the suffering that this catastrophe has caused to all these poor western tourists (which is the real reason why we Europeans have donated so much to the relief funds), they went strait to their data-minig department and told them to get them a list with all their customers that have been in the hit by the tsunami. so the data miners go a and get themselves a CNN info graphic that shows the tsunami affected countries run a couple of queries based on this information and come up with a list of tsunami victims among their customer that goes back to the marketing department and there the amount of money available for this stunt is divided by the amount of victims and the billing department is instructed to credit each victim with the resulting amount. and now they are probably all excited how they come up with a way of effectively allocating ressources where they are most needed… credit where credit is due!

When i called their customer center today to complain about using my location data for something which they are not entitled the call center agent simply failed to understand my problem. he could not see how i could complain as i benefited from this measure of theirs and told me that i was ungrateful. and when asked about why i was getting the credit when i was in delhi the whole time he told me ‘well that is in the region isn’t it?’