Data Mining Your Kids' Conversations

AT&T is now offering a Web-based feature called AT&T Smart Limits that will "allow parents to stay in touch with their children while controlling their children's mobile phone use." The service will, according to AT&T's website:

"Set limits for:

* Minutes

* Text and instant messages

* Download purchases

* Time of day or night the phone can be used

* Numbers the phone can call or text (incoming and outgoing)

* Internet content access

Once a limit is reached, the service will be restricted. Calls to and from phone numbers designated as Allowed Numbers and calls to 911 will continue to be allowed, regardless of the limits you set."

All yours for $4.99 a month.

AT&T decided to offer this service, according to the CNN story, because:

Results of a recent AT&T survey revealed that 84 percent of consumers believe parental controls and safety tools are extremely or very important in keeping children safe while they use today's entertainment and communications technologies. Nearly one-third (31 percent) of those adults do not feel that they have adequate knowledge of how to use those tools to protect children from today's threats.

It will be interesting to see how quickly the children of parents who buy the service figure a way around it, or an Internet VOIP company offers a friendly buy-pass, say for, $3.99 a month?

Of course, the next logical step would be for parents to give phone companies permission to have all of their children's voice conversations recorded, and then have them data mined for hints that they are calling numbers or viewing sites that have been banned by their parents. It should be too hard to put in an automatic message announcing at the beginning of every call that this calls may be monitored for quality control purposes.

Maybe AT&T could offer this service for $5.99 a month.


Risk Factor

IEEE Spectrum's risk analysis blog, featuring daily news, updates and analysis on computing and IT projects, software and systems failures, successes and innovations, security threats, and more.

Robert Charette
Spotsylvania, Va.
Willie D. Jones
New York City