Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Oh The Places You’ll Go

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I’ve been signaling to some of my colleagues that it would be time to short their mental position on upstart location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla as soon as the industry giants jumped into the fray.

That, in fact, the big players would suck all the oxygen out of the geo-location room.

But it appears I was wrong, at least in the near term.

After Facebook announced it’s new “Places” capabilities, which allows you to announce the location of you and your friends via the FB system, Foursquare saw its “biggest day ever in terms of new user signups” according to a Tweet by Foursquare co-founder, Dennis Crowley.

I’d be Tweeting that, too, if I were the CEO of the David of location-based services to Facebook’s Goliath!

Of course, I’m still wondering what the play of the other goliath is going to be in this space, Google.  Is it my imagination, or is Google starting to get way out-innovated by Facebook (controversial though some of those innovations may be).

Well, I don’t have to worry about all that, as I don’t use location-based services.

If you want to hunt me down, you can probably find me at home working from my home office (which checking in to seems kind of patently self-obvious and gratuitous — Hey Ma, look, I’m Mayor of my own home office!), or heading to an airport somewhere.

And I’m absolutely certain nobody needs to find me on the golf course!

If you really want to find me, send me an email.  Better yet, send smoke signals!

If you’re in the nobody-on-Facebook-needs-to-know-where-the-heck-in-the-world-I’m-at-camp, I would recommend you follow Lifehacker’s prescription for disabling Facebook’s Places.

Before you call me the grumpy old Luddite, let me be clear: I have no problem with location-based services in principle.

I just am concerned that not nearly enough forethought is being given to the continued and rapid distintegration of personal privacy, neither by consumers nor the companies building these new services.

I think there are also ample enough precedents that there should be more concerns about personal safety, particularly for young people (adolescents, tweens, etc.)

It’s one thing for your teenage son or daughter to get an iPhone.

It’s entirely another thing for them to turn Facebook on on that iPhone and have Places announce their location to the world.

Bad people are listening to and watching these services. They’re a small minority, to be sure, but they are out there, and I fear location-based services are providing a fast check-out lane for predators and the like.

Which is why I AM all for folks finding more information on this subject and learning more, and educating themselves about this technology and its implications.

A good start is the EFF’s primer on locational privacy, as well as this Wikipedia entry on location-based services (including the section on privacy).  Feel free to add other resources for location privacy awareness and protection in the comments box below.

Written by turbotodd

August 20, 2010 at 2:48 pm

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