In an interview with GoMo News earlier this year, I talked about “the Bay Area bubble”, this is the mind-set found in Silicon Valley “where a lot of the products and services coming out seem to think your user will always have a smartphone, and will always have a GPS lock with an excellent data connection”. But does the so called location industry live in its own version of the Bay Area Bubble? Let’s call it the “location privacy bubble” for the sake of convenience.
Last week an article entitled “Can you digital photos reveal where you live?” was posted on the Big Brother Watch blog; pop over there and read it for a moment, it’s only three paragraphs long …
… welcome back. My first thought on reading that article was “well yeah, duuh“. Followed up by the slightly more lengthy thought of “well yeah, duh … of course a geotagged photo can reveal where you live, if you’ve enabled geotagging, if you understand EXIF data, if you’ve uploaded the photo to the internet and if you’ve set the visibility of that photo to public … upload enough photos and sufficient patterns will emerge that should give a good indication of where you live“.
But I’d be willing to bet that most people’s thought on reading that article was much more along the lines of “s**t … I didn’t know that“. For those of us in the location industry, we should sit up and take note of this reaction.
Here on the inside of the location industry it’s relatively easy to dismiss articles such as the Big Brother Watch one. We know enough to make an informed decision on whether the location component of a service is opt in or opt out. With a bit of background research we can even find out whether a service utilises your location in stealth mode, with potentially abusive consequences, such as recent news that some free apps on the Android mobile platform are secretly sharing their location without the user’s knowledge.
With today’s ever changing technology making a level of technical sophistication available to the mass market that would have been unheard of 10 years ago, maybe it’s time for Location to engage the services of a good Public Relations agency to move the visibility and benefits of the location component of services away from the dense legalese of the EULA and away from burying the control of location deep away inside a densely nested set of configuration options.
If we don’t then the first that the majority of the general public will hear of location privacy will be when a story hits the tabloid media, such as when proof of infidelity of a celebrity due to a location based app on their phone is used in a high profile divorce proceedings. And that will be a sad day for all of the location industry.