Feature Friday: Jay-Z and Your Phone: a Magna Carta for Tomorrow’s Mobile World
Guest Post by Cole Hanson
Anyone who is a fan of pop culture has heard about the impending release of Jay-Z’s new album “Magna Carta Holy Grail”, which is already another top-selling record for Jay-Z. But what many people may not be aware of was the mobile push behind the album, and the partnership with Samsung that made it all possible. Now, without jumping into the details, the short of it is that Jay-Z and Samsung partnered to create an app for Android and iPhone which would provide a countdown to the album’s release on July 7th. For the first million people to download the app, the album was then released for free on July 4th to be downloaded directly to handsets.
Now, the combination of a musician and a technology company working together to build hype for a new album may be interesting, but what is even more interesting is what Samsung had to gain through the venture. As another rapper, Killer Mike (Michael Render), noted on Twitter, the app gives enormous permissions to Samsung with regards to on-device data, settings and notifications. The app requests user permissions to allow full network communication access with “read phone status and identity” rights, “prevent phone from sleeping” in order to retrieve running apps and keep the app running in the background, “modify or delete contents of your USB storage,” access “approximate network location” as well as “precise GPS location,” among other things. These requests aren’t anything new with regards to app data requests, but for Render, it was too much. He tweeted, alongside a screen shot of the permissions page from his phone, “Naw I’m cool.”
So, what does this mean for mobile? In my opinion, Killer Mike may be an exception to the rule in this modern exchange system for information, which I wrote about in a past blog post on privacy. It is not entirely new for a user to forgo large amounts of seemingly innocent pieces of information in exchange for convenience, content, or creative tools (I’m talking Snapchat creative here, folks). But, as irrelevant as some of this information may be to the average mobile user, it can build a portrait of user activity that helps researchers, marketers and developers tailor content for your specific situation. Its portable ethnography in its most basic form: simply following a mobile user around for a day while reading device usage statistics, without influencing or changing their habits beyond the initial release form and installation of the app. Do you remember the last time you were interested in what app you were using at noon yesterday, or when you wanted to grab your battery usage numbers from last week? Samsung is most assuredly interested in that data, and in this latest instance, was willing to trade you a $15 pre-release album from the world’s most popular hip-hop artist in exchange for it. Sounds like a fair trade to me.