Mobile Identity

Today I used the MMS mobile ticket service of Switzerland’s railroad SBB. When you buy a ticket through the online booking system, SBB sends you an e-ticket as an MMS to your mobile phone.

So far, so good.

On the train the ticket collector has to scan your MMS-barcode. I presented my e-ticket and pointed my phone to the conductor. He tried to scan my ticket, but it didn’t work. Maybe because of the distance between phone and scanner? Maybe due to the slight angle in which I held my phone? Anyway, I had to hand him my phone, so that he could figure out a way to scan it.

This handover of my phone is what got me thinking today:

Whom do you hand over you mobile phone? In which situations? Why? What does it feel like? Whom would you never give your phone? Why not? What would have to be at stake so that you would? When is it socially acceptable to hand over your phone to a stranger? What if the stranger leaves your field of view with your phone?

What does this teach us about trust and identity? Does the answer depend on the cultural context? What does all this mean for the design of mobile services?

I have way more questions than I have answers. It’s complicated and yet that makes it interesting.