O2 puts unprotected MMS pictures on web, Google still caching phone numbers

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o2-logo-blue.jpgOver the weekend, it emerged that pages from O2’s MMS-to-web service had been crawled and indexed by Google, raising concerns over the privacy of its customers’ data.

The system sounds innocent enough: if someone is sent an MMS message but their phone (such as an iPhone 3G) is incapable of receiving / displaying them, they are instead directed to a web page where the picture is displayed. This also includes the sender’s mobile phone number and keywords.

The trouble is, up until the weekend, these pages weren’t protected in any way, meaning that search engines were free to crawl them. The problem was made worse when people posted links to these pages directly on blogs, social networking profiles, and other web pages.

Since the weekend, O2 has closed the pages off, and the help pages now state that mobile users will be sent a web link and a PIN which has to be entered before the picture will be displayed.

However, Google has cached a very small number of these pages, and while the images are no longer viewable, the numbers remain. Proof that, once something is on the Internet, it’s very hard to remove it.

It’s a bit of an embarrassment for O2 at a time when they could really do with some positive press, and it’s not clear when or if the service will be restored.

(Via PC Pro)

Related posts: iPhone 3G pre-orders crash O2 site | O2 limits iPhone 3G orders

Andy Merrett